Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in skeletal muscle is concentrated at neuromuscular junctions, where it is found in the synaptic cleft between muscle and nerve, associated with the synaptic portion of the myofiber basal lamina. This raises the question of whether the synaptic enzyme is produced by muscle, nerve, or both. Studies on denervated and regenerating muscles have shown that myofibers can produce synaptic AChE, and that the motor nerve may play an indirect role, inducing myofibers to produce synaptic AChE. The aim of this study was to determine whether some of the AChE which is known to be made and transported by the motor nerve contributes directly to AChE in the synaptic cleft. Frog muscles were surgically damaged in a way that caused degeneration and permanent removal of all myofibers from their basal lamina sheaths. Concomitantly, AChE activity was irreversibly blocked. Motor axons remained intact, and their terminals persisted at almost all the synaptic sites on the basal lamina in the absence of myofibers. 1 mo after the operation, the innervated sheaths were stained for AChE activity. Despite the absence of myofibers, new AChE appeared in an arborized pattern, characteristic of neuromuscular junctions, and its reaction product was concentrated adjacent to the nerve terminals, obscuring synaptic basal lamina. AChE activity did not appear in the absence of nerve terminals. We concluded therefore, that the newly formed AChE at the synaptic sites had been produced by the persisting axon terminals, indicating that the motor nerve is capable of producing some of the synaptic AChE at neuromuscular junctions. The newly formed AChE remained adherent to basal lamina sheaths after degeneration of the terminals, and was solubilized by collagenase, indicating that the AChE provided by nerve had become incorporated into the basal lamina as at normal neuromuscular junctions.

This content is only available as a PDF.