Non-quaternary oximes detoxify nerve agents and reactivate nerve agent-inhibited human butyrylcholinesterase

Gabriel Amitai, Alexander Plotnikov, Shira Chapman, Shlomi Lazar, Rellie Gez, Dan Loewenthal, Khriesto A. Shurrush, Galit Cohen, Leonardo J. Solmesky, Haim Barr, Alan J. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Government-sanctioned use of nerve agents (NA) has escalated dramatically in recent years. Oxime reactivators of organophosphate (OP)-inhibited acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) serve as antidotes toward poisoning by OPNAs. The oximes used as therapeutics are quaternary compounds that cannot penetrate the blood–brain barrier (BBB). There remains an urgent need for the development of next generation OPNA therapeutics. We have developed two high-throughput screening (HTS) assays using a fluorogenic NA surrogate, O-ethyl methylphosphonyl O-4-methyl-3-cyano-coumarin (EMP-MeCyC). EMP-MeCyC detoxification and EMP-BChE reactivation screening campaigns of ~155,000 small molecules resulted in the identification of 33 nucleophile candidates, including non-quaternary oximes. Four of the oximes were reactivators of both Sarin- and VX-inhibited BChE and directly detoxified Sarin. One oxime also detoxified VX. The novel reactivators included a non-quaternary pyridine amidoxime, benzamidoxime, benzaldoxime and a piperidyl-ketoxime. The VX-inhibited BChE reactivation reaction rates by these novel molecules were similar to those observed with known bis-quaternary reactivators and faster than mono-quaternary pyridinium oximes. Notably, we discovered the first ketoxime reactivator of OP-ChEs and detoxifier of OPNAs. Preliminary toxicological studies demonstrated that the newly discovered non-quaternary oximes were relatively non-toxic in mice. The discovery of unique non-quaternary oximes opens the door to the design of novel therapeutics and decontamination agents following OPNA exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number573
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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