We examined the role of innervation on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) gene expression within mammalian skeletal muscle fibers. First, we showed the selective accumulation of AChE mRNAs within the junctional vs extrajunctional sarcoplasm of adult muscle fibers using a quantitative reverse transcription PCR assay and demonstrated by in situ hybridization experiments that AChE transcripts are concentrated immediately beneath the postsynaptic membrane of the neuromuscular junction. Next, we determined the influence of nerve-evoked activity vs putative trophic factors on the synaptic accumulation of AChE mRNA levels in muscle fibers paralyzed by either surgical denervation or selective blockage of nerve action potentials with chronic superfusion of tetrodotoxin. Our results indicated that muscle paralysis leads to a marked decrease in AChE transcripts from the postsynaptic sarcoplasm, yet the extent of this decrease is less pronounced after tetrodotoxin inactivation than after denervation. These results suggest that although nerve-evoked activity per se appears a key regulator of AChE mRNA levels, the integrity of the synaptic structure or the release of putative trophic factors contribute to maintaining the synaptic accumulation of AChE transcripts at adult neuromuscular synapses. Furthermore, the pronounced downregulation of AChE transcripts in paralyzed muscles stands in sharp contrast to the well-documented increase in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor mRNAs under these conditions, and indicates that expression of the genes encoding these two synaptic proteins are subjected to different regulatory mechanisms in adult muscle fibers in vivo.

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