A single pulse of agrin triggers a pathway that acts to cluster acetylcholine receptors.
ABSTRACT: Agrin triggers signaling mechanisms of high temporal and spatial specificity to achieve phosphorylation, clustering, and stabilization of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). Agrin transiently activates the kinase MuSK; MuSK activation has largely vanished when AChR clusters appear. Thus, a tyrosine kinase cascade acts downstream from MuSK, as illustrated by the agrin-evoked long-lasting activation of Src family kinases (SFKs) and their requirement for AChR cluster stabilization. We have investigated this cascade and report that pharmacological inhibition of SFKs reduces early but not later agrin-induced phosphorylation of MuSK and AChRs, while inhibition of Abl kinases reduces late phosphorylation. Interestingly, SFK inhibition applied selectively during agrin-induced AChR cluster formation caused rapid cluster dispersal later upon agrin withdrawal. We also report that a single 5-min agrin pulse, followed by extensive washing, triggered long-lasting MuSK and AChR phosphorylation and efficient AChR clustering. Following the pulse, MuSK phosphorylation increased and, beyond a certain level, caused maximal clustering. These data reveal novel temporal aspects of tyrosine kinase action in agrin signaling. First, during AChR cluster formation, SFKs initiate early phosphorylation and an AChR stabilization program that acts much later. Second, a kinase mechanism rapidly activated by agrin acts thereafter autonomously in agrin's absence to further increase MuSK phosphorylation and cluster AChRs.
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: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:<h4>Background</h4>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.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>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.<h4>Conclusion</h4>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:Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by muscle weakness and caused by pathogenic autoantibodies that bind to membrane proteins at the neuromuscular junction. Most patients have autoantibodies against the acetylcholine receptor (AChR), but a subset of patients have autoantibodies against muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK) instead. MuSK is an essential component of the pathway responsible for synaptic differentiation, which is activated by nerve-released agrin. Through binding MuSK, serum-derived autoantibodies inhibit agrin-induced MuSK autophosphorylation, impair clustering of AChRs, and block neuromuscular transmission. We sought to establish individual MuSK autoantibody clones so that the autoimmune mechanisms could be better understood. We isolated MuSK autoantibody-expressing B cells from 6 MuSK MG patients using a fluorescently tagged MuSK antigen multimer, then generated a panel of human monoclonal autoantibodies (mAbs) from these cells. Here we focused on 3 highly specific mAbs that bound quantitatively to MuSK in solution, to MuSK-expressing HEK cells, and at mouse neuromuscular junctions, where they colocalized with AChRs. These 3 IgG isotype mAbs (2 IgG4 and 1 IgG3 subclass) recognized the Ig-like domain 2 of MuSK. The mAbs inhibited AChR clustering, but intriguingly, they enhanced rather than inhibited MuSK phosphorylation, which suggests an alternative mechanism for inhibiting AChR clustering.
Project description:The release of Agrin by motoneurons activates the muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (MuSK) as the main organizer of subsynaptic specializations at the neuromuscular junction. MuSK downstream signaling is largely undefined. Here we show that protein kinase CK2 interacts and colocalizes with MuSK at post-synaptic specializations. We observed CK2-mediated phosphorylation of serine residues within the kinase insert (KI) of MuSK. Inhibition or knockdown of CK2, or exchange of phosphorylatable serines by alanines within the KI of MuSK, impaired acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clustering, whereas their substitution by residues that imitate constitutive phosphorylation led to aggregation of AChRs even in the presence of CK2 inhibitors. Impairment of AChR cluster formation after replacement of MuSK KI with KIs of other receptor tyrosine kinases correlates with potential CK2-dependent serine phosphorylation within KIs. MuSK activity was unchanged but AChR stability decreased in the presence of CK2 inhibitors. Muscle-specific CK2beta knockout mice develop a myasthenic phenotype due to impaired muscle endplate structure and function. This is the first description of a regulatory cross-talk between MuSK and CK2 and of a role for the KI of the receptor tyrosine kinase MuSK for the development of subsynaptic specializations.
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:Stabilization and maturation of synapses are important for development and function of the nervous system. Previous studies have implicated cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains in synapse stabilization, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We found that cholesterol stabilizes clusters of synaptic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in denervated muscle in vivo and in nerve-muscle explants. In paralyzed muscles, cholesterol triggered maturation of nerve sprout-induced AChR clusters into pretzel shape. Cholesterol treatment also rescued a specific defect in AChR cluster stability in cultured src(-/-);fyn(-/-) myotubes. Postsynaptic proteins including AChRs, rapsyn, MuSK and Src-family kinases were strongly enriched in lipid microdomains prepared from wild-type myotubes. Microdomain disruption by cholesterol-sequestering methyl-beta-cyclodextrin disassembled AChR clusters and decreased AChR-rapsyn interaction and AChR phosphorylation. Amounts of microdomains and enrichment of postsynaptic proteins into microdomains were decreased in src(-/-);fyn(-/-) myotubes but rescued by cholesterol treatment. These data provide evidence that cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains and SFKs act in a dual mechanism in stabilizing the postsynapse: SFKs enhance microdomain-association of postsynaptic components, whereas microdomains provide the environment for SFKs to maintain interactions and phosphorylation of these components.
Project description:At the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clustering is mediated by spinal motor neuron (SMN)-derived agrin and its receptors on the muscle, the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (LRP4) and muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (MuSK). Additionally, AChR clustering is mediated by the components of the Wnt pathway. Laser capture microdissection of SMNs revealed that a secreted activator of Wnt signaling, R-spondin 2 (Rspo2), is highly expressed in SMNs. We found that Rspo2 is enriched at the NMJ, and that Rspo2 induces MuSK phosphorylation and AChR clustering. Rspo2 requires Wnt ligands, but not agrin, for promoting AChR clustering in cultured myotubes. Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5), an Rspo2 receptor, is also accumulated at the NMJ, and is associated with MuSK via LRP4. Lgr5 is required for Rspo2-mediated AChR clustering in myotubes. In Rspo2-knockout mice, the number and density of AChRs at the NMJ are reduced. The Rspo2-knockout diaphragm has an altered ultrastructure with widened synaptic clefts and sparse synaptic vesicles. Frequency of miniature endplate currents is markedly reduced in Rspo2-knockout mice. To conclude, we demonstrate that Rspo2 and its receptor Lgr5 are Wnt-dependent and agrin-independent regulators of AChR clustering at the NMJ.
Project description:Muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) is critical for the synaptic clustering of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and plays multiple roles in the organization and maintenance of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). MuSK is activated by agrin, which is released from motoneurons, and induces AChR clustering at the postsynaptic membrane. Although autoantibodies against the ectodomain of MuSK have been found in a proportion of patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG), it is unclear whether MuSK autoantibodies are the causative agent of generalized MG. In the present study, rabbits immunized with MuSK ectodomain protein manifested MG-like muscle weakness with a reduction of AChR clustering at the NMJs. The autoantibodies activated MuSK and blocked AChR clustering induced by agrin or by mediators that do not activate MuSK. Thus MuSK autoantibodies rigorously inhibit AChR clustering mediated by multiple pathways, an outcome that broadens our general comprehension of the pathogenesis of MG.
Project description:A variable proportion of patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG) have autoantibodies to muscle specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK). During development agrin, released from the motor nerve, interacts with low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-4 (LRP4), which then binds to MuSK; MuSK interaction with the intracellular protein Dok7 results in clustering of the acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) on the postsynaptic membrane. In mature muscle, MuSK helps maintain the high density of AChRs at the neuromuscular junction. MuSK antibodies are mainly IgG4 subclass, which does not activate complement and can be monovalent, thus it is not clear how the antibodies cause disruption of AChR numbers or function to cause MG. We hypothesised that MuSK antibodies either reduce surface MuSK expression and/or inhibit the interaction with LRP4. We prepared MuSK IgG, monovalent Fab fragments, IgG1-3 and IgG4 fractions from MuSK-MG plasmas. We asked whether the antibodies caused endocytosis of MuSK in MuSK-transfected cells or if they inhibited binding of LRP4 to MuSK in co-immunoprecipitation experiments. In parallel, we investigated their ability to reduce AChR clusters in C2C12 myotubes induced by a) agrin, reflecting neuromuscular development, and b) by Dok7- overexpression, producing AChR clusters that more closely resemble the adult neuromuscular synapse. Total IgG, IgG4 or IgG1-3 MuSK antibodies were not endocytosed unless cross-linked by divalent anti-human IgG. MuSK IgG, Fab fragments and IgG4 inhibited the binding of LRP4 to MuSK and reduced agrin-induced AChR clustering in C2C12 cells. By contrast, IgG1-3 antibodies did not inhibit LRP4-MuSK binding but, surprisingly, did inhibit agrin-induced clustering. Moreover, both IgG4 and IgG1-3 preparations dispersed agrin-independent AChR clusters in Dok7-overexpressing C2C12 cells. Thus interference by IgG4 antibodies of the LRP4-MuSK interaction will be one pathogenic mechanism of MuSK antibodies, but IgG1-3 MuSK antibodies will also contribute to the reduced AChR density and neuromuscular dysfunction in myasthenia patients with MuSK antibodies.