The localization of acetylcholine receptors (AChR) in the surface of developing myogenic cells of the chick embryo anterior and posterior latissimus dorsi muscles in relation to the process of innervation has been studied at the ultrastructural level utilizing a horseradish peroxidase-alpha-bungarotoxin conjugate. Localized concentrations of AChR were found in small regions 0.1-0.4 micron in width on the surface of myogenic cells of 10- to 14-d-old muscles. Surface specializations consisting of an external coating of extraneous material and an internal accumulation of dense material are associated with the plasma membrane in the regions of AChR concentration. As the muscle fibers are innervated, reactive surface patches are found at the region of contact of the growing nerve fiber and the surface of myotubes or their fusing myoblasts. After the establishment of contact, the patches of reaction product become more numerous and coextensive within the region of the neuromuscular junction and its immediate surroundings forming a dense continuous deposit on the postsynaptic sarcolemma. Activity becomes increasingly restricted to the site of the neuromuscular junction as the embryos approach hatching. At all stages, specializations external and internal to the plasmalemma are found at regions of high density of AChR, suggesting that they play a role in the maintenance of a higher concentration of receptors at these sites. These specializations also occur at the region of initial synaptic contact, indicating that they might be recognized by the nerve and represent preferred sites of innervation. Innervation appears to exert a stabilizing influence on the area of high AChR concentration in contact with the nerve and to induce a further increase in the AChR density of this site while the number of AChR in the remaining portions of the muscle surface declines.

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