Soluble miniagrin enhances contractile function of engineered skeletal muscle.
ABSTRACT: Neural agrin plays a pleiotropic role in skeletal muscle innervation and maturation, but its specific effects on the contractile function of aneural engineered muscle remain unknown. In this study, neonatal rat skeletal myoblasts cultured within 3-dimensional engineered muscle tissue constructs were treated with 10 nM soluble recombinant miniagrin and assessed using histological, biochemical, and functional assays. Depending on the treatment duration and onset time relative to the stage of myogenic differentiation, miniagrin was found to induce up to 1.7-fold increase in twitch and tetanus force amplitude. This effect was associated with the 2.3-fold up-regulation of dystrophin gene expression at 6 d after agrin removal and enhanced ACh receptor (AChR) cluster formation, but no change in cell number, expression of muscle myosin, or important aspects of intracellular Ca(2+) handling. In muscle constructs with endogenous ACh levels suppressed by the application of ?-NETA, miniagrin increased AChR clustering and twitch force amplitude but failed to improve intracellular Ca(2+) handling and increase tetanus-to-twitch ratio. Overall, our studies suggest that besides its synaptogenic function that could promote integration of engineered muscle constructs in vivo, neural agrin can directly promote the contractile function of aneural engineered muscle via mechanisms distinct from those involving endogenous ACh.
Project description:Agrin and its receptor MuSK are required for the formation of the postsynaptic apparatus at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). In the current model the local deposition of agrin by the nerve and the resulting local activation of MuSK are responsible for creating and maintaining the postsynaptic apparatus including clusters of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). Concomitantly, the release of acetylcholine (ACh) and the resulting depolarization disperses those postsynaptic structures that are not apposed by the nerve and thus not stabilized by agrin-MuSK signaling. Here we show that a miniaturized form of agrin, consisting of the laminin-binding and MuSK-activating domains, is sufficient to fully restore NMJs in agrin mutant mice when expressed by developing muscle. Although miniagrin is expressed uniformly throughout muscle fibers and induces ectopic AChR clusters, the size and the number of those AChR clusters contacted by the motor nerve increase during development. We provide experimental evidence that this is due to ACh, because the AChR agonist carbachol stabilizes AChR clusters in organotypic cultures of embryonic diaphragms. In summary, our results show that agrin function in NMJ development requires only two small domains, and that this function does not depend on the local deposition of agrin at synapses. Finally, they suggest a novel local function of ACh in stabilizing postsynaptic structures.
Project description:Positive and negative regulation of neurotransmitter receptor aggregation on the postsynaptic membrane is a critical event during synapse formation. Acetylcholine (ACh) and agrin are two opposing signals that regulate ACh receptor (AChR) clustering during neuromuscular junction (NMJ) development. ACh induces dispersion of AChR clusters that are not stabilized by agrin via a cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5)-mediated mechanism, but regulation of Cdk5 activation is poorly understood. We found that the intermediate filament protein nestin physically interacts with Cdk5 and is required for ACh-induced association of p35, the co-activator of Cdk5, with the muscle membrane. Blockade of nestin-dependent signaling inhibited ACh-induced Cdk5 activation and the dispersion of AChR clusters in cultured myotubes. Similar to the effects of Cdk5 gene inactivation, knockdown of nestin in agrin-deficient mouse embryos substantially restored AChR clusters. These results suggest that nestin is required for ACh-induced, Cdk5-dependent dispersion of AChR clusters during NMJ development.
Project description:Temperature is a physiological factor that affects neuronal growth and synaptic homeostasis at the invertebrate neuromuscular junctions (NMJs); however, whether temperature stress could also regulate the structure and function of the vertebrate NMJs remains unclear. In this study, we use Xenopus laevis primary cultures as a vertebrate model system for investigating the involvement of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) family of stress proteins in NMJ development. First, cold temperature treatment or HSP90 inhibition attenuates the formation of aneural acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clusters, but increases their stability after they are formed, in cultured muscles. HSP90 inhibition specifically affects the stability of aneural AChR clusters and their associated intracellular scaffolding protein rapsyn, instead of causing a global change in cell metabolism and protein expression in Xenopus muscle cultures. Upon synaptogenic stimulation, a specific HSP90 family member, glucose-regulated protein 94 (Grp94), modulates the phosphorylation and dynamic turnover of actin depolymerizing factor (ADF)/cofilin at aneural AChR clusters, leading to the recruitment of AChR molecules from aneural clusters to the assembly of agrin-induced postsynaptic specializations. Finally, postsynaptic Grp94 knock-down significantly inhibits nerve-induced AChR clustering and postsynaptic activity in nerve-muscle co-cultures as demonstrated by live-cell imaging and electrophysiological recording, respectively. Collectively, this study suggests that temperature-dependent alteration in Grp94 expression and activity inhibits the assembly of postsynaptic specializations through modulating ADF/cofilin phosphorylation and activity at aneural AChR clusters, which prevents AChR molecules from being recruited to the postsynaptic sites via actin-dependent vesicular trafficking, at developing vertebrate NMJs.
Project description:Efficient synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) requires the topological maturation of the postsynaptic apparatus from an oval acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-rich plaque into a complex pretzel-shaped array of branches. However, compared to NMJ formation very little is known about the mechanisms that regulate NMJ maturation. Recently the process of in vivo transformation from plaque into pretzel has been reproduced in vitro by culturing myotubes aneurally on laminin-coated substrate. It was proposed that the formation of complex AChR clusters is regulated by a MuSK-dependent muscle intrinsic program. To elucidate the structure-function role of MuSK in the aneural maturation of AChR pretzels, we used muscle cell lines expressing MuSK mutant and chimeric proteins. Here we report, that besides its role during agrin-induced AChR clustering, MuSK kinase activity is also necessary for substrate-dependent cluster formation. Constitutive-active MuSK induces larger AChR clusters, a faster cluster maturation on laminin and increases the anchorage of AChRs to the cytoskeleton compared to MuSK wild-type. In addition, we find that the juxtamembrane region of MuSK, which has previously been shown to regulate agrin-induced AChR clustering, is unable to induce complex AChR clusters on laminin substrate. Most interestingly, MuSK kinase activity is not sufficient for laminin-dependent AChR cluster formation since the MuSK ectodomain is also required suggesting a so far undiscovered instructive role for the extracellular domain of MuSK.
Project description:Recent studies have shown that the survival of mammalian motoneurons in vitro is promoted by neurotrophins (NTs) and cAMP. There is also evidence that neurotrophins enhance transmitter release. We thus investigated whether these agents also promote synaptogenesis. Cultured Xenopus spinal cord neurons were treated with a mixture of BDNF, glia-derived neurotrophic factor, NT-3, and NT-4, in addition to forskolin and IBMX or the cell-permeant form of cAMP, to elevate the cAMP level. The outgrowth and survival of neurons were dramatically increased by this trophic stimulation. However, when these neurons were cocultured with muscle cells, the trophic agents resulted in a failure of synaptogenesis. Specifically, the induction of ACh receptor (AChR) clustering in cultured muscle cells was inhibited at nerve-muscle contacts, in sharp contrast to control, untreated cocultures. Because AChR clustering induced by agrin or growth factor-coated beads in muscle cells was unaffected by trophic stimulation, its effect on synaptogenesis is presynaptic in origin. In the control, agrin was deposited along the neurite and at nerve-muscle contacts. This was significantly downregulated in cultures treated with trophic stimuli. Reverse transcriptase-PCR analyses showed that this decrease in agrin deposition was caused by an inhibition of agrin synthesis by trophic stimuli. Both agrin synthesis and induction of AChR clustering were restored under trophic stimulation when Schwann cell-conditioned medium was introduced. These results suggest that trophic stimulation maintains spinal neurons in the growth state, and Schwann cell-derived factors allow them to switch to the synaptogenic state.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Development of neural networks requires that synapses are formed, eliminated and stabilized. At the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), agrin/MuSK signaling, by triggering downstream pathways, causes clustering and phosphorylation of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). Postnatally, AChR aggregates are stabilized by molecular pathways that are poorly characterized. Gain or loss of function of Src-family kinases (SFKs) disassembles AChR clusters at adult NMJs in vivo, whereas AChR aggregates disperse rapidly upon withdrawal of agrin from cultured src-/-;fyn-/- myotubes. This suggests that a balance between protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) and protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) such as those of the Src-family may be essential in stabilizing clusters of AChRs. RESULTS: We have analyzed the role of PTPs in maintenance of AChR aggregates, by adding and then withdrawing agrin from cultured myotubes in the presence of PTP or PTK inhibitors and quantitating remaining AChR clusters. In wild-type myotubes, blocking PTPs with pervanadate caused enhanced disassembly of AChR clusters after agrin withdrawal. When added at the time of agrin withdrawal, SFK inhibitors destabilized AChR aggregates but concomitant addition of pervanadate rescued cluster stability. Likewise in src-/-;fyn-/- myotubes, in which agrin-induced AChR clusters form normally but rapidly disintegrate after agrin withdrawal, pervanadate addition stabilized AChR clusters. The PTP SHP-2, known to be enriched at the NMJ, associated and colocalized with MuSK, and agrin increased this interaction. Specific SHP-2 knockdown by RNA interference reduced the stability of AChR clusters in wild-type myotubes. Similarly, knockdown of SHP-2 in adult mouse soleus muscle by electroporation of RNA interference constructs caused disassembly of pretzel-shaped AChR-rich areas in vivo. Finally, we found that src-/-;fyn-/- myotubes contained elevated levels of SHP-2 protein. CONCLUSION: Our data are the first to show that the fine balance between PTPs and SFKs is a key aspect in stabilization of postsynaptic AChR clusters. One phosphatase that acts in this equilibrium is SHP-2. Thus, PTPs such as SHP-2 stabilize AChR clusters under normal circumstances, but when these PTPs are not balanced by SFKs, they render clusters unstable.
Project description:To investigate the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on mRNA and protein expression of agrin, acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-ε and AChR-γ in a rat model of tibialis anterior muscle atrophy induced by sciatic nerve injection injury, and to examine the underlying mechanism of action.Fifty-four adult Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into four groups: healthy control group (CON, n=6); sciatic nerve injury group (SNI, n=24), comprising rats euthanased at 1, 2, 4 and 6 weeks, respectively, after penicillin injection-induced SNI (n=6 each); CON+EA group (n=12), comprising healthy rats euthanased at 4 and 6 weeks (after 2 and 4 weeks, respectively, of EA at GB30 and ST36); and SNI+EA group, comprising rats euthanased at 4 and 6 weeks (after 2 and 4 weeks, respectively, of EA). The sciatic nerve functional index (SFI), tibialis anterior muscle weight, muscle fibre cross-sectional area (CSA), and changes in agrin, AChR-ε, and AChR-γ expression levels were analysed.Compared with the control group (CON), SNI rats showed decreased SFI. The weight of the tibialis anterior muscle and muscle fibre CSA decreased initially and recovered slightly over time. mRNA/protein expression of agrin and AChR-ε were downregulated and AChR-γ expression was detectable (vs zero expression in the CON/CON+EA groups). There were no significant differences in CON+EA versus CON groups. However, the SNI+EA group exhibited significant improvements compared with the untreated SNI group (p<0.05).EA may alleviate tibialis anterior muscle atrophy induced by sciatic nerve injection injury by upregulating agrin and AChR-ε and downregulating AChR-γ.
Project description:Motoneuron-derived agrin clusters nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in mammalian muscle cells. We used two-hybrid screens to identify a protein, tumorous imaginal discs (Tid1), that binds to the cytoplasmic domain of muscle-specific kinase (MuSK), a major component of the agrin receptor. Like MuSK, Tid1 colocalizes with AChRs at developing, adult, and denervated motor endplates. Knockdown of Tid1 by short hairpin RNA (shRNA) in skeletal muscle fibers dispersed synaptic AChR clusters and impaired neuromuscular transmission. In cultured myotubes, Tid1 knockdown inhibited AChR clustering, as well as agrin-induced activation of the Rac and Rho small GTPases and tyrosine phosphorylation of the AChR, without affecting MuSK activation. Tid1 knockdown also decreased Dok-7-induced clustering of AChRs. Overexpression of the N-terminal half of Tid1 induced agrin- and MuSK-independent phosphorylation and clustering of AChRs. These results demonstrate that Tid1 is an essential component of the agrin signaling pathway, crucial for synaptic development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Postsynaptic enrichment of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ) depends on the activation of the muscle receptor tyrosine MuSK by neural agrin. Agrin-stimulation of MuSK is known to initiate an intracellular signaling cascade that leads to the clustering of AChRs in an actin polymerization-dependent manner, but the molecular steps which link MuSK activation to AChR aggregation remain incompletely defined. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:In this study we used biochemical, cell biological and molecular assays to investigate a possible role in AChR clustering of cortactin, a protein which is a tyrosine kinase substrate and a regulator of F-actin assembly and which has also been previously localized at AChR clustering sites. We report that cortactin was co-enriched at AChR clusters in situ with its target the Arp2/3 complex, which is a key stimulator of actin polymerization in cells. Cortactin was further preferentially tyrosine phosphorylated at AChR clustering sites and treatment of myotubes with agrin significantly enhanced the tyrosine phosphorylation of cortactin. Importantly, forced expression in myotubes of a tyrosine phosphorylation-defective cortactin mutant (but not wild-type cortactin) suppressed agrin-dependent AChR clustering, as did the reduction of endogenous cortactin levels using RNA interference, and introduction of the mutant cortactin into muscle cells potently inhibited synaptic AChR aggregation in response to innervation. CONCLUSION:Our results suggest a novel function of phosphorylation-dependent cortactin signaling downstream from agrin/MuSK in facilitating AChR clustering at the developing NMJ.
Project description:Neuromuscular junction (NMJ) formation requires agrin, a factor released from motoneurons, and MuSK, a transmembrane tyrosine kinase that is activated by agrin. However, how signal is transduced from agrin to MuSK remains unclear. We report that LRP4, a low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR)-related protein, is expressed specifically in myotubes and binds to neuronal agrin. Its expression enables agrin binding and MuSK signaling in cells that otherwise do not respond to agrin. Suppression of LRP4 expression in muscle cells attenuates agrin binding, agrin-induced MuSK tyrosine phosphorylation, and AChR clustering. LRP4 also forms a complex with MuSK in a manner that is stimulated by agrin. Finally, we showed that LRP4 becomes tyrosine-phosphorylated in agrin-stimulated muscle cells. These observations indicate that LRP4 is a coreceptor of agrin that is necessary for MuSK signaling and AChR clustering and identify a potential target protein whose mutation and/or autoimmunization may cause muscular dystrophies.