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Presynaptic or postsynaptic origin of acetylcholinesterase at neuromuscular junctions? An immunological study in heterologous nerve-muscle cultures

Developmental Biology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0012-1606(86)90044-8
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Abstract Numerous studies have shown that the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is inserted in the plasma membrane of the mnuscle fiber, and that it is focalized at the site of neuromuscular junctions, as an effect of neural influence. In contrast, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) may be presynaptic or anchored in the basal lamina, as well as postsynaptic at neuromuscular junctions. We investigated the origin of the junctional enzyme, particularly the collagen-tailed asymmetric A 12 forms, by studying the AChE contents of heterologous rat and chicken neuromuscular cocultures by immunohistochemical and biochemical methods. We found that the overall content of AChE, in the neuromuscular cocultures, including the A 12 form, was essentially identical to the sum of the contents of separate myotube and motoneuron cultures. The sedimentation coefficients of the rat and chicken asymmetric forms are sufficiently different to clearly differentiate these enzymes in sucrose gradients: 16 S for rat, 20 S for chicken A 12 AChE. Sedimentation analyses of AChE in cocultures thus showed that the A 12 form was of muscular origin. In the case of aneural cultures of myotubes, histochemical staining of AChE activity or immunohistochemical staining with specific antibodies showed only very scarce, faint concentrations of enzyme. Some patches of acetylcholine receptor (AChR) were, however, visible in these cultures. Neuromuscular contacts are readily established in cocultures of myotubes with embryonic motoneurons from spinal cords. In the presence of motoneurons, the myotubes presented a larger number of AChR patches. The most remarkable feature of neuromuscular cocultures was the presence of numerous intense AChE patches which always coincided with AChR clusters. By specifically staining nerve terminals with tetanus toxin, we could show an excellent correlation between neuromuscular contacts and the presence of AChE-AChR patches. We found that the AChE patches in heterologous cocultures could be stained exclusively by the anti-myotube AChE antiserum. The focalized enzyme is therefore exclusively, or very predominantly, provided by the myotube.

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