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J. Neurosci. 20 (3): 919-928

Copyright © 2000 by the Society for Neuroscience.

The Journal of Neuroscience, February 1, 2000, 20(3):919-928

Local Control of Acetylcholinesterase Gene Expression in Multinucleated Skeletal Muscle Fibers: Individual Nuclei Respond to Signals from the Overlying Plasma Membrane

Susana G. Rossi, Ana E. Vazquez, and Richard L. Rotundo

Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33136

Nuclei in multinucleated skeletal muscle fibers are capable of expressing different sets of muscle-specific genes depending on their locations within the fiber. Here we test the hypothesis that each nucleus can behave autonomously and responds to signals generated locally on the plasma membrane. We used acetylcholinesterase (AChE) as a marker because its transcripts and protein are concentrated at the neuromuscular and myotendenous junctions. First, we show that tetrodotoxin (TTX) reversibly suppresses accumulation of cell surface AChE clusters, whereas veratridine or scorpion venom (ScVn) increase them. AChE mRNA levels are also regulated by membrane depolarization. We then designed chambered cultures that allow application of sodium channel agonists or antagonists to restricted regions of the myotube surface. When a segment of myotube is exposed to TTX, AChE cluster formation is suppressed only on that region. Conversely, ScVn increases AChE cluster formation only where in contact with the muscle surface. Likewise, both the synthesis and secretion of AChE are shown to be locally regulated. Moreover, using in situ hybridization, we show that the perinuclear accumulation of AChE transcripts also depends on signals that each nucleus receives locally. Thus AChE can be up- and downregulated in adjacent regions of the same myotubes. These results indicate that individual nuclei are responding to locally generated signals for cues regulating gene expression.

Key words: neuromuscular junction; skeletal muscle; gene regulation; muscle differentiation; membrane depolarization; acetylcholinesterase


Copyright © 2000 Society for Neuroscience  0270-6474/00/203919-10$05.00/0

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