We have investigated the mechanisms responsible for the increase in acetylcholine receptor subunit mRNAs during the induction of denervation supersensitivity in skeletal muscle. Using a cRNA probe specific for exon 7 (224 nucleotides; with flanking intron sequences of 105 nucleotides on the 3' end, and of 70 nucleotides on the 5' end) of the alpha subunit of the chicken muscle acetylcholine receptor gene, we were able to quantitate the concentration of mature alpha subunit mRNA and its precursor. In 3-wk-old chicks, the concentration of alpha subunit message in leg muscle was found to be 4.0 attomoles per microgram total RNA, and to increase 40-fold within 1 wk after section of the sciatic nerve. The molar ratio of precursor/mature mRNA, which was approximately 0.023 in innervated as well as denervated muscle, transiently rose to 0.047 at the beginning of the second postoperative day when mature message content increased 20-fold; the rise in precursor level preceded the increase in mature message content. These findings suggest that an accelerated rate of transcription of the message coding for the alpha subunit causes increased message content and the stimulation of receptor synthesis characteristic of denervated muscle.

This content is only available as a PDF.