[125I mono-iodo-alpha-bungarotoxin is used as a specific marker in a description of acetylcholine receptor metabolism. It is concluded that acetylcholine receptors in the surface membranes of chick and rat myotubes developing in cell cultures have a half-life of 22-24 h. Alpha-bungarotoxin (bound to a receptor which is removed from the membrane) is degraded to monoiodotyrosine which appears in the medium. Several observations are consistent with a model in which receptors or alpha-bungarotoxin-receptor complexes are internalized and then degraded: (a) the rate of appearance of iodotyrosine does not reach its maximal rate until 90 min after alpha-bungarotoxin is bound to the surface receptors; (b) 2,4-dinitrophenol, reduced temperature, and cell disruption all inhibit the degradation process. The degradation of surface receptors is not coupled to the process by which receptors are incorporated into the membrane. Evidence suggest that receptors are incorporated into the surface membrane from a presynthesized set of receptors containing about 10% as many alpha-bungarotoxin binding sites as does the surface. Additionally, a third set of acetylcholine receptors is described containing about 30% as amny binding sites as does the surface. These "hidden" recptors are not precursors yet are not readily accessible for binding of extracellular alpha-bungarotoxin. These findings are discussed in relation to both plasma membrane biosynthesis and control of chemosensitivity in developing and denervated skeletal muscle.

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