Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Activity-Linked Alterations in Acetylcholinesterase mRNAs in Developing Versus Adult Rat Skeletal Muscles


  • Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., Philadelphia

  • Abbreviations used: AChE, acetylcholinesterase; AChR, acetylcholine receptor; CAT, chloramphenicol acetyltransferase; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; NRAP, N-box containing rat AChE promoter; TA, tibialis anterior; UTR, untranslated region.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. B. J. Jasmin at Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1H 8M5. E-mail:


Abstract: The molecular mechanisms underlying the activity-linked plasticity of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) mRNA levels in mammalian skeletal muscle have yet to be established. Here, we demonstrate that denervation of adult muscle induces a dramatic (up to 90%) and rapid (within 24 h) decrease in the abundance of AChE mRNAs. By contrast, denervation of 14-day-old rats leads to a significantly less pronounced reduction (50% of control) in the expression of AChE mRNAs. Assessment of the transcriptional activity of the AChE gene reveals that it remains essentially unchanged in adult denervated muscles, whereas it displays an approximately two- to three-fold increase (p < 0.05) in denervated muscles from 2- to 14-day-old rats. In addition, we observed a higher rate of degradation of in vitro transcribed AChE mRNAs upon incubation with protein extracts from denervated muscles. Finally, UV-crosslinking experiments reveal that denervation increases the abundance of RNA-protein interactions in the 3′ untranslated region of AChE transcripts. Taken together, these data suggest that the abundance of AChE transcripts in mature muscles is controlled primarily via posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms, whereas in neo- and postnatal muscles, both transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation appears critical in dictating AChE mRNA levels. Accordingly, the activity-linked transcriptional regulation of the AChE gene appears to demonstrate a high level of plasticity during muscle development when maturation of the neuromuscular junctions is still occurring.