Muscle specific kinase autoantibodies cause synaptic failure through progressive wastage of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors.

School of Medical Sciences (Physiology) and Bosch Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Experimental Neurology (Impact Factor: 4.62). 07/2012; 237(2):286-95. DOI: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.06.034
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In myasthenia gravis muscle weakness is caused by autoantibodies against components of the neuromuscular junction. Patient autoantibodies against muscle specific kinase (MuSK) deplete MuSK from the postsynaptic membrane and reproduce signs of myasthenia gravis when injected into mice. Here we have examined the time-course of structural and functional changes that lead up to synaptic failure. C57Bl6J mice received daily injections of anti-MuSK patient IgG for 15days. Mice began to lose weight from day 12 and demonstrated whole-body weakness by day 14. Electromyography indicated synaptic impairment from day 6 in the gastrocnemius muscle and from day 10 in the diaphragm muscle. Confocal microscopy revealed linear declines in the area and density of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors (3-5% per day) from day 1 through day 15 of the injection series in all five muscles examined. Intracellular recordings from the diaphragm muscle revealed comparable progressive declines in the amplitude of the endplate potential and miniature endplate potential of 3-4% per day. Neither quantal content nor the postsynaptic action potential threshold changed significantly over the injection series. The inverse relationship between the quantal amplitude of a synapse and its quantal content disappeared only late in the injection series (day 10). Our results suggest that the primary myasthenogenic action of anti-MuSK IgG is to cause wastage of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptor density. Consequent reductions in endplate potential amplitudes culminated in failure of neuromuscular transmission.

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