We have analyzed two genetic variants of C2 muscle cells that have reduced levels of binding activity for alpha-bungarotoxin and have found that both synthesize only low levels of the alpha-subunit of the acetylcholine receptor. In both variants the uptake of 22Na in response to carbachol is diminished in proportion to the reduction in toxin-binding activity. In addition, the kinetic and sedimentation properties of the residual toxin-binding activity in both is indistinguishable from that seen in wild-type cells. Immunoblotting experiments on extracts of the variants using subunit-specific antibodies to alpha- and beta-subunits of the acetylcholine receptor demonstrated that the beta-subunit was present, but failed to detect alpha-subunit. In both variants, the amount of alpha-subunit accumulated after a 5-min period of labeling with [35S]methionine was reduced by over 90%, leading to the conclusion that the alpha-subunit is synthesized at greatly reduced rates. Northern blot and S1 nuclease analysis showed no differences between the alpha-subunit mRNA in wild-type and variant cells.

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