• endplate plasticity;
  • trophic regulation;
  • neuromuscular junction;
  • natural activity model


Chronic enhancement of neuromuscular activity by forced exercise training programmes results in selective adaptation of the G4 acetylcholinesterase (AChE) molecular form in hindlimb fast muscles of the rat, with only minor and non-selective AChE changes in the soleus. In order to shed further light on the physiological significance of this G4 adaptation to training, we turned to a voluntary exercise model. The impact of 5 days and 4 weeks of voluntary wheel cage running on AChE molecular forms was examined in four hindlimb fast muscles and the slow-twitch soleus from two rat strains. Inbred Fisher and Sprague– Dawley rats, placed in live-in wheel cages, exercised spontaneously for distances which progressively increased up to an average of ∼3 and 18 km/day, respectively, by the end of week 4. Fast muscles responded to this voluntary activity by massive G4 increases (up to 420%) with almost no changes in A12, so that by week 4 the tetramer became the main AChE component of these muscles. The additional G4 was composed primarily of amphiphilic molecules, suggesting a membrane-bound state. The G4 content of fast muscles was highly correlated with the distance covered by the rats during the 5 days before they were killed (r= 0.850-0.879, P < 0.001 in three muscles). The soleus muscle, in turn, responded to wheel cage activity by a marked selective reduction of its asymmetric forms—up to 45% for A12. This A12 decline, already maximal by day 5 of wheel cage running, showed no relationship with the distance covered. The present results constitute strong new evidence suggesting that the role of AChE in neuromuscular transmission is not limited solely to the rapid inactivation of just-released acetylcholine.