Optical imaging probes for selective detection of butyrylcholinesterase

Musa Dirak, Jefferson Chan, Safacan Kolemen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), a member of the human serine hydrolase family, is an essential enzyme for cholinergic neurotransmission as it catalyzes the hydrolysis of acetylcholine. It also plays central roles in apoptosis, lipid metabolism, and xenobiotic detoxification. On the other side, abnormal levels of BChE are directly associated with the formation of pathogenic states such as neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders, liver damage, diabetes, and cancer. Thus, selective and sensitive detection of BChE level in living organisms is highly crucial and is of great importance to further understand the roles of BChE in both physiological and pathological processes. However, it is a very complicated task due to the potential interference of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), the other human cholinesterase, as these two enzymes share a very similar substrate scope. To this end, optical imaging probes have attracted immense attention in recent years as they have modular structures, which can be tuned precisely to satisfy high selectivity toward BChE, and at the same time they offer real time and nondestructive imaging opportunities with a high spatial and temporal resolution. Here, we summarize BChE selective imaging probes by discussing the critical milestones achieved during the development process of these molecular sensors over the years. We put a special emphasis on design principles and biological applications of highly promising new generation activity-based probes. We also give a comprehensive outlook for the future of BChE-responsive probes and highlight the ongoing challenges. This collection marks the first review article on BChE-responsive imaging agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1167
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry B
Issue number5
Early online dateJan 2 2024
StatePublished - Feb 7 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science


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