Acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) are packed in the postsynaptic membrane at neuromuscular junctions at a density of approximately 20,000/micron 2, whereas the density a few micrometers away is less than 20/micron 2. To understand how this remarkable distribution comes about during nerve-muscle synapse formation, we have attempted to isolate factors from neural tissue that can promote the accumulation of AChRs and/or alter their distribution. In this paper we report the purification of a polypeptide from chick brains that can increase the rate of insertion of AChR into membranes of cultured chick myotubes at a concentration of less than 0.5 ng/ml. Based on SDS PAGE and the action of neuraminidase, the acetylcholine receptor-inducing activity (ARIA) appears to be a 42,000-D glycoprotein. ARIA was extracted in a trifluoroacetic acid-containing cocktail and purified to homogeneity by reverse-phase, ion exchange, and size exclusion high pressure liquid chromatography. Dose response curves indicate that the activity has been purified 60,000-fold compared with the starting acid extract and approximately 1,500,000-fold compared with a saline extract prepared from the same batch of brains. Although the ARIA was purified on the basis of its ability to increase receptor incorporation, we found that it increased the number and size of receptor clusters as well. It is not yet clear if the two effects are independent. The 42-kD ARIA is extremely stable: it was not destroyed by exposure to intact myotubes, low pH, organic solvents, or SDS. Its action appears to be selective in that the increase in the rate of receptor insertion was not accompanied by an increase in the rate of protein synthesis. Moreover, there was no change in cellular, surface membrane, or secreted acetylcholinesterase. The effect of ARIA is apparently independent of the state of activity of the target myotubes as its effect on receptor incorporation added to that of maximal concentrations of tetrodotoxin.

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