Hybridoma techniques have been used to generate monoclonal antibodies to an antigen concentrated in the basal lamina at the Xenopus laevis neuromuscular junction. The antibodies selectively precipitate a high molecular weight heparan sulfate proteoglycan from conditioned medium of muscle cultures grown in the presence of [35S]methionine or [35S]sulfate. Electron microscope autoradiography of adult X. laevis muscle fibers exposed to 125I-labeled antibody confirms that the antigen is localized within the basal lamina of skeletal muscle fibers and is concentrated at least fivefold within the specialized basal lamina at the neuromuscular junction. Fluorescence immunocytochemical experiments suggest that a similar proteoglycan is also present in other basement membranes, including those associated with blood vessels, myelinated axons, nerve sheath, and notochord. During development in culture, the surface of embryonic muscle cells displays a conspicuously non-uniform distribution of this basal lamina proteoglycan, consisting of large areas with a low antigen site-density and a variety of discrete plaques and fibrils. Clusters of acetylcholine receptors that form on muscle cells cultured without nerve are invariably associated with adjacent, congruent plaques containing basal lamina proteoglycan. This is also true for clusters of junctional receptors formed during synaptogenesis in vitro. This correlation indicates that the spatial organization of receptor and proteoglycan is coordinately regulated, and suggests that interactions between these two species may contribute to the localization of acetylcholine receptors at the neuromuscular junction.

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