Altered active zones, vesicle pools, nerve terminal conductivity, and morphology during experimental MuSK myasthenia gravis

Vishwendra Patel, Anne Oh, Antanina Voit, Lester G. Sultatos, Gopal J. Babu, Brenda A. Wilson, Mengfei Ho, Joseph J. McArdle

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Recent studies demonstrate reduced motor-nerve function during autoimmune muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK) myasthenia gravis (MG). To further understand the basis of motor-nerve dysfunction during MuSK-MG, we immunized female C57/B6 mice with purified rat MuSK ectodomain. Nerve-muscle preparations were dissected and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) studied electrophysiologically, morphologically, and biochemically. While all mice produced antibodies to MuSK, only 40% developed respiratory muscle weakness. In vitro study of respiratory nervemuscle preparations isolated from these affected mice revealed that 78% of NMJs produced endplate currents (EPCs) with significantly reduced quantal content, although potentiation and depression at 50 Hz remained qualitatively normal. EPC and mEPC amplitude variability indicated significantly reduced number of vesicle-release sites (active zones) and reduced probability of vesicle release. The readily releasable vesicle pool size and the frequency of large amplitude mEPCs also declined. The remaining NMJs had intermittent (4%) or complete (18%) failure of neurotransmitter release in response to 50 Hz nerve stimulation, presumably due to blocked action potential entry into the nerve terminal, which may arise from nerve terminal swelling and thinning. Since MuSK-MG-affected muscles do not express the AChR γ subunit, the observed prolongation of EPC decay time was not due to inactivity-induced expression of embryonic acetylcholine receptor, but rather to reduced catalytic activity of acetylcholinesterase. Muscle protein levels of MuSK did not change. These findings provide novel insight into the pathophysiology of autoimmune MuSK-MG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere110571
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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