Previous studies have shown that rat primary muscle cells do not respond to crude rat brain extract or one of its active components, ascorbic acid, with a significant increase in surface acetylcholine receptor (AChR) number. We report here that, although little or no response is seen on the cell surface, rat primary muscle cells do respond to both crude brain extract and to ascorbic acid with an approximately threefold increase in AChR alpha-subunit mRNA. The response of the mRNA is similar to that seen in the cloned L5 cells. However, while in L5 cells the increase in alpha-subunit mRNA is further translated into increased levels of alpha-subunit protein, there is no such increase in alpha-subunit synthesis in the primary cells. This study thus shows a regulation of surface AChR synthesis in rat primary cells at the level of alpha-subunit translation. This level of regulation is different from that involving subunit transcription or subunit assembly reported by others.

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