Motor neurons regulate the acetylcholine sensitivity of the muscles they innervate: denervated muscle fiber become "supersensitive" to acetylcholine, due to insertion of newly synthesized acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in the plasma membrane. We used hybridization analysis with a cloned cDNA specific for AChR alpha-subunit to compare the abundance of AChR mRNA in innervated and denervated adult mouse muscles. Within 3 d of denervation, levels of AChR mRNA increased 100-fold; levels of actin mRNA changed little. The increase in AChR mRNA level was sufficiently large and rapid to account for denervation supersensitivity.

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