Two populations of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) are present in cultured myotubes. One forms large aggregates or clusters and the other has a much lower density of AChRs, which are diffusely distributed. Both clustered and diffuse AChRs are inserted and removed (internalized) from the sarcolemma. To determine the insertion and removal rates of AChRs in these two plasma membrane domains, we used a double label technique to distinguish and quantitate newly inserted and "old" AChRs. Application of our method revealed that the rate of AChR internalization is the same at the clustered and diffuse regions of the plasma membrane, whereas the rate of insertion is threefold greater at the clusters than elsewhere in the plasma membrane. Thus, the increase in AChR number at the clusters is not due to an increase in their half-life, but to an increase in their rate of insertion.

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