To elucidate the nature of signals that control the level and spatial distribution of mRNAs encoding acetylcholine receptor (AChR), alpha-, beta-, gamma-, delta- and epsilon-subunits in muscle fibers chronic paralysis was induced in rat leg muscles either by surgical denervation or by different neurotoxins that cause disuse of the muscle or selectively block neuromuscular transmission pre- or postsynaptically and cause an increase of AChRs in muscle membrane. After paralysis, the levels and the spatial distributions of the different subunit-specific mRNAs change discoordinately and seem to follow one of three different patterns depending on the subunit mRNA examined. The level of epsilon-subunit mRNA and its accumulation at the end-plate are largely independent on the presence of the nerve or electrical muscle activity. In contrast, the gamma-subunit mRNA level is tightly coupled to innervation. It is undetectable or low in innervated normally active muscle and in innervated but disused muscle, whereas it is abundant along the whole fiber length in denervated muscle or in muscle in which the neuromuscular contact is intact but the release of transmitter is blocked. The alpha-, beta-, and delta-subunit mRNA levels show a different pattern. Highest amounts are always found at end-plate nuclei irrespective of whether the muscle is innervated, denervated, active, or inactive, whereas in extrasynaptic regions they are tightly controlled by innervation partially through electrical muscle activity. The changes in the levels and distribution of gamma- and epsilon-subunit-specific mRNAs in toxin-paralyzed muscle correlate well with the spatial appearance of functional fetal and adult AChR channel subtypes along the muscle fiber. The results suggest that the focal accumulation at the synaptic region of mRNAs encoding the alpha-, beta-, delta-, and epsilon-subunits, which constitute the adult type end-plate channel, is largely determined by at least two different neural factors that act on AChR subunit gene expression of subsynaptic nuclei.

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