Neuromuscular Junction Formation in Tissue-Engineered Skeletal Muscle Augments Contractile Function and Improves Cytoskeletal Organization.
ABSTRACT: Neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases are conditions that affect both motor neurons and the underlying skeletal muscle tissue. At present, the majority of neuromuscular research utilizes animal models and there is a growing need to develop novel methodologies that can be used to help understand and develop treatments for these diseases. Skeletal muscle tissue-engineered constructs exhibit many of the characteristics of the native tissue such as accurate fascicular structure and generation of active contractions. However, to date, there has been little consideration toward the integration of engineered skeletal muscle with motor neurons with the aim of neuromuscular junction (NMJ) formation, which would provide a model to investigate neuromuscular diseases and basic biology. In the present work we isolated primary embryonic motor neurons and neonatal myoblasts from Sprague-Dawley rats, and cocultured the two cell types in three-dimensional tissue-engineered fibrin hydrogels with the aim of NMJ formation. Immunohistochemistry revealed myotube formation in a fascicular arrangement and neurite outgrowth from motor neuron cell bodies toward the aligned myotubes. Furthermore, colocalization of pre- and postsynaptic proteins and chemical inhibition of spontaneous myotube twitch indicated the presence of NMJs in the innervated constructs. When electrical field stimulation was employed to evoke isometric contractions, maximal twitch and tetanic force were higher in the constructs cocultured with motor neurons, which may, in part, be explained by improved myotube cytoskeletal organization in these constructs. The fabrication of such constructs may be useful tools for investigating neuromuscular pharmaceuticals and improving the understanding of neuromuscular pathologies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:In many neurodegenerative and muscular disorders, and loss of innervation in sarcopenia, improper reinnervation of muscle and dysfunction of the motor unit (MU) are key pathogenic features. In vivo studies of MUs are constrained due to difficulties isolating and extracting functional MUs, so there is a need for a simplified and reproducible system of engineered in vitro MUs. OBJECTIVE:to develop and characterise a functional MU model in vitro, permitting the analysis of MU development and function. METHODS:an immortalised human myoblast cell line was co-cultured with rat embryo spinal cord explants in a serum-free/growth fact media. MUs developed and the morphology of their components (neuromuscular junction (NMJ), myotubes and motor neurons) were characterised using immunocytochemistry, phase contrast and confocal microscopy. The function of the MU was evaluated through live observations and videography of spontaneous myotube contractions after challenge with cholinergic antagonists and glutamatergic agonists. RESULTS:blocking acetylcholine receptors with ?-bungarotoxin resulted in complete, cessation of myotube contractions, which was reversible with tubocurarine. Furthermore, myotube activity was significantly higher with the application of L-glutamic acid. All these observations indicate the formed MU are functional. CONCLUSION:a functional nerve-muscle co-culture model was established that has potential for drug screening and pathophysiological studies of neuromuscular interactions.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The aim of this study was to investigate the role of ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase-L1 (UCHL1) for motor neuron circuitry and especially in spinal motor neuron (SMN) health, function, and connectivity. METHODS:Since mutations in UCHL1 gene leads to motor dysfunction in patients, we investigated the role of UCHL1 on SMN survival, axon health, and connectivity with the muscle, by employing molecular and cellular marker expression analysis and electrophysiological recordings, in healthy wild-type and Uchl1 (nm3419) (UCHL1-/-) mice, which lack all UCHL1 function. RESULTS:There is pure motor neuropathy with selective degeneration of the motor, but not sensory axons in the absence of UCHL1 function. Neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) are impaired in muscle groups that are innervated by slow-twitch or fast-twitch SMN. However, unlike corticospinal motor neurons, SMN cell bodies remain intact with no signs of elevated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. INTERPRETATION:Presence of NMJ defects and progressive retrograde axonal degeneration in the absence of major SMN soma loss suggest that defining pathology as a function of neuron number is misleading and that upper and lower motor neurons utilize UCHL1 function in different cellular events. In line with findings in patients with mutations in UCHL1 gene, our results suggest a unique role of UCHL1, especially for motor neuron circuitry. SMN require UCHL1 to maintain NMJ and motor axon health, and that observed motor dysfunction in the absence of UCHL1 is not due to SMN loss, but mostly due to disintegrated circuitry.
Project description:Motor neuron (MN) diseases are progressive disorders resulting from degeneration of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), which form the connection between MNs and muscle fibers. NMJ-in-a-dish models have been developed to examine human MN-associated dysfunction with disease; however such coculture models have randomly oriented myotubes with immature synapses that contract asynchronously. Mechanically patterned (MP) extracellular matrix with alternating soft and stiff stripes improves current NMJ-in-a-dish models by inducing both mouse and human myoblast durotaxis to stripes where they aligned, differentiated, and fused into patterned myotubes. Compared to conventional culture on rigid substrates or unpatterned hydrogels, MP substrates supported increased differentiation and fusion, significantly larger acetylcholine (ACh) receptor clusters, and increased expression of MuSK and Lrp4, two cell surface receptors required for NMJ formation. Robust contractions were observed when mouse myotubes were stimulated by ACh, with twitch duration and frequency most closely resembling those for mature muscle on MP substrates. Fused myotubes, when cocultured with MNs, were able to form even larger NMJs. Thus MP matrices produce more functionally active NMJs-in-a-dish, which could be used to elucidate disease pathology and facilitate drug discovery.
Project description:Ageing skeletal muscle undergoes chronic denervation, and the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), the key structure that connects motor neuron nerves with muscle cells, shows increased defects with ageing. Previous studies in various species have shown that with ageing, type II fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibres show more atrophy and NMJ deterioration than type I slow-twitch fibres. However, how this process is regulated is largely unknown. A better understanding of the mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle fibre-type specific denervation at the NMJ could be critical to identifying novel treatments for sarcopenia. Cardiac troponin T (cTnT), the heart muscle-specific isoform of TnT, is a key component of the mechanisms of muscle contraction. It is expressed in skeletal muscle during early development, after acute sciatic nerve denervation, in various neuromuscular diseases and possibly in ageing muscle. Yet the subcellular localization and function of cTnT in skeletal muscle is largely unknown.Studies were carried out on isolated skeletal muscles from mice, vervet monkeys, and humans. Immunoblotting, immunoprecipitation, and mass spectrometry were used to analyse protein expression, real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to measure gene expression, immunofluorescence staining was performed for subcellular distribution assay of proteins, and electromyographic recording was used to analyse neurotransmission at the NMJ.Levels of cTnT expression in skeletal muscle increased with ageing in mice. In addition, cTnT was highly enriched at the NMJ region-but mainly in the fast-twitch, not the slow-twitch, muscle of old mice. We further found that the protein kinase A (PKA) RIα subunit was largely removed from, while PKA RIIα and RIIβ are enriched at, the NMJ-again, preferentially in fast-twitch but not slow-twitch muscle in old mice. Knocking down cTnT in fast skeletal muscle of old mice: (i) increased PKA RIα and reduced PKA RIIα at the NMJ; (ii) decreased the levels of gene expression of muscle denervation markers; and (iii) enhanced neurotransmission efficiency at NMJ.Cardiac troponin T at the NMJ region contributes to NMJ functional decline with ageing mainly in the fast-twitch skeletal muscle through interfering with PKA signalling. This knowledge could inform useful targets for prevention and therapy of age-related decline in muscle function.
Project description:Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations of the survival of motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. In the pathogenesis of SMA, pathological changes of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) precede the motor neuronal loss. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the NMJ formed by SMA patients’ motor neurons (MNs), and to identify drugs that can restore the normal condition. We generated NMJ-like structures using motor neurons (MNs) derived from SMA patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and found that the clustering of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is significantly impaired. Valproic acid and antisense oligonucleotide treatment ameliorated the AChR clustering defects, leading to an increase in the level of full-length SMN transcripts. Thus, the current in vitro model of AChR clustering using SMA patient-derived iPSCs is useful to dissect the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the development of SMA, and to evaluate the efficacy of new therapeutic approaches. To compare the gene expression pattern between control and patient derived iPSCs
Project description:Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations of the survival of motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. In the pathogenesis of SMA, pathological changes of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) precede the motor neuronal loss. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the NMJ formed by SMA patients’ motor neurons (MNs), and to identify drugs that can restore the normal condition. We generated NMJ-like structures using motor neurons (MNs) derived from SMA patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and found that the clustering of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is significantly impaired. Valproic acid and antisense oligonucleotide treatment ameliorated the AChR clustering defects, leading to an increase in the level of full-length SMN transcripts. Thus, the current in vitro model of AChR clustering using SMA patient-derived iPSCs is useful to dissect the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the development of SMA, and to evaluate the efficacy of new therapeutic approaches. to evaluate the effects of VPA on the expression profiles of the MNs
Project description:Volumetric muscle loss (VML) is the traumatic or surgical loss of skeletal muscle beyond the inherent regenerative capacity of the body, generally leading to severe functional deficit. Formation of appropriate somato-motor innervations remains one of the biggest challenges for both autologous grafts as well as tissue-engineered muscle constructs. We aim to address this challenge by developing pre-innervated tissue-engineered muscle comprised of long aligned networks of spinal motor neurons and skeletal myocytes on aligned nanofibrous scaffolds. Motor neurons led to enhanced differentiation and maturation of skeletal myocytes in vitro. These pre-innervated tissue-engineered muscle constructs when implanted in a rat VML model significantly increased satellite cell density, neuromuscular junction maintenance, graft revascularization, and muscle volume over three weeks as compared to myocyte-only constructs and nanofiber scaffolds alone. These pro-regenerative effects may enhance functional neuromuscular regeneration following VML, thereby improving the levels of functional recovery following these devastating injuries.
Project description:The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a prototypic chemical synapse between the spinal motor neuron and the motor endplate. Gene expression profiles of the motor endplate are not fully elucidated. Collagen Q (ColQ) is a collagenic tail subunit of asymmetric forms of acetylcholinesterase and is driven by two distinct promoters. pColQ1 is active throughout the slow-twitch muscle, whereas pColQ1a is active at the motor endplate of fast-twitch muscle. We made a transgenic mouse line that expresses nuclear localization signal (NLS)-attached Cre recombinase under the control of pColQ1a (pColQ1a-Cre mouse). RiboTag mouse expresses an HA-tagged ribosomal subunit, RPL22, in cells expressing Cre recombinase. We generated pColQ1a-Cre:RiboTag mouse, and confirmed that HA-tagged RPL22 was enriched at the NMJ of tibialis anterior (TA) muscle. Next, we confirmed that Chrne and Musk that are specifically expressed at the NMJ were indeed enriched in HA-immunoprecipitated (IP) RNA, whereas Sox10 and S100b, markers for Schwann cells, and Icam1, a marker for vascular endothelial cells, and Pax3, a marker for muscle satellite cells, were scarcely detected. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) of RNA-seq data showed that "phosphatidylinositol signaling system" and "extracellular matrix receptor interaction" were enriched at the motor endplate. Subsequent analysis revealed that genes encoding diacylglycerol kinases, phosphatidylinositol kinases, phospholipases, integrins, and laminins were enriched at the motor endplate. We first characterized the gene expression profile under translation at the motor endplate of TA muscle using the RiboTag technique. We expect that our gene expression profiling will help elucidate molecular mechanisms of the development, maintenance, and pathology of the NMJ.
Project description:Background:Although considerable research on neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) has been conducted, the prospect of in vivo NMJ studies is limited and these studies are challenging to implement. Therefore, there is a clear unmet need to develop a feasible, robust, and physiologically relevant in vitro NMJ model. Objective:We aimed to establish a novel functional human NMJs platform, which is serum and neural complex media/neural growth factor-free, using human immortalized myoblasts and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)-derived neural progenitor cells (NPCs) that can be used to understand the mechanisms of NMJ development and degeneration. Methods:Immortalized human myoblasts were co-cultured with hESCs derived committed NPCs. Over the course of the 7 days myoblasts differentiated into myotubes and NPCs differentiated into motor neurons. Results:Neuronal axon sprouting branched to form multiple NMJ innervation sites along the myotubes and the myotubes showed extensive, spontaneous contractile activity. Choline acetyltransferase and ?III-tubulin immunostaining confirmed that the NPCs had matured into cholinergic motor neurons. Postsynaptic site of NMJs was further characterized by staining dihydropyridine receptors, ryanodine receptors, and acetylcholine receptors by ?-bungarotoxin. Conclusion:We established a functional human motor unit platform for in vitro investigations. Thus, this co-culture system can be used as a novel platform for 1) drug discovery in the treatment of neuromuscular disorders, 2) deciphering vital features of NMJ formation, regulation, maintenance, and repair, and 3) exploring neuromuscular diseases, age-associated degeneration of the NMJ, muscle aging, and diabetic neuropathy and myopathy.
Project description:Despite being an early event in ALS, it remains unclear whether the denervation of neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) is simply the first manifestation of a globally degenerating motor neuron. Using in vivo imaging of single axons and their NMJs over a three-month period, we identify that single motor-units are dismantled asynchronously in SOD1G37R mice. We reveal that weeks prior to complete axonal degeneration, the dismantling of axonal branches is accompanied by contemporaneous new axonal sprouting resulting in synapse formation onto nearby NMJs. Denervation events tend to propagate from the first lost NMJ, consistent with a contribution of neuromuscular factors extrinsic to motor neurons, with distal branches being more susceptible. These results show that NMJ denervation in ALS is a complex and dynamic process of continuous denervation and new innervation rather than a manifestation of sudden global motor neuron degeneration.