Agrin-Deficient Myotube Retains Its Acetylcholine Receptor Aggregation Ability when Challenged with Agrin


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. K. W. K. Tsim at Department of Biology, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay Road, Hong Kong, China.


Abstract: Agrin is a synapse-organizing molecule that mediates the nerve-induced aggregation of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and other postsynaptic components at the developing and regenerating vertebrate neuromuscular junctions. At the neuromuscular junction, three different cell types can express agrin, i.e., neuron, muscle, and Schwann cell. Several lines of evidence suggested that neuron-derived agrin is the AChR-aggregating factor, but the possible roles of muscle-derived agrin in the formation of AChR aggregate are not known. By using the recombinant DNA method, a clonal stable C2C12 cell line transfected with antisense agrin cDNA was created. RNA dot blot and western blot analysis indicated that the expression of agrin in the transfected cell was abolished by DNA transfection. When the agrin-deficient C2C12 cells were induced to form myotubes and subsequently cocultured with agrin cDNA transfected fibroblasts, AChR aggregates were formed in the cocultures. In addition, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) aggregates in agrin-deficient myotubes were also induced by exogenous agrin and the AChE aggregates were colocalized with the AChR aggregates. The agrin-deficient myotubes could also respond to neuron-induced AChR aggregation after coculturing with neuroblastoma cells. Thus, the agrin-deficient myotubes retain their ability to exhibit the agrin- or neuron-induced AChR aggregation. This result suggests that the formation of postsynaptic specializations during development and regeneration is mediated by neuron-derived agrin but not the agrin from muscle.