We determined age-dependent changes in plasma and brain cholinesterase (ChE) activity for two species of passerines: house wren (Troglodytes aedon) and European starling (Sturnus vulgaris, starling). In plasma from nestlings of both species, total ChE activity increased with age, acetylcholinesterase (AChE, EC 126.96.36.199) activity declined rapidly immediately after hatching, and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE, EC 188.8.131.52) activity increased steadily. For both species, total ChE and BChE activities and the BChE:AChE ratio in plasma were significantly greater in adults than nestlings suggesting trends observed in nestlings continue post fledging. In older nestlings and adults, AChE activity in plasma was significantly greater and BChE:AChE ratio less in house wrens than starlings. For house wrens as compared with starlings, ChE activity in brain increased at a significantly greater rate with age in nestlings and was significantly greater in adults. However, ChE activity in brain was similar at fledging for both species suggesting that the increase in ChE in brain is more directly related to ontogeny than chronologic age in nestlings of passerines. For both species, ChE activity increased significantly with brain weight of nestlings but not adults. House wrens hold similar patterns of age-dependent change in ChE activity in common with starlings but also exhibit differences in AChE activity in plasma that should be considered as a factor potentially affecting their relative toxicologic response to ChE inhibitors.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3