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Publications (2)17.19 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Here we present the first evidence that muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) antigen can cause myasthenia in animals. MuSK is expressed at the postsynaptic membranes of neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) and forms complexes with acetylcholine receptors (AChR) and rapsyn. MuSK is activated by agrin, which is released from motoneurons, and induces AChR clustering and subsequent formation of NMJ in embryos. Notably, autoantibodies against MuSK were found in a proportion of patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG) but without the characteristic AChR autoantibodies. However, MuSK autoantibodies had no known pathogenic potential, and animals immunized with purified MuSK proteins did not develop MG in former studies. In contrast, we have now injected rabbits with MuSK ectodomain protein in vivo and evoked a MG-like muscle weakness with a reduction of AChR clustering at the NMJ. Our results showed that MuSK is required for maintenance of synapses and that interference with that function by MuSK antibodies causes myasthenic weakness. In vitro, AChR clustering in myotubes is induced by agrin and agrin-independent inducers, which do not activate MuSK. Neither the receptor nor the activation mechanisms of AChR clustering induced by agrin-independent inducers has been identified with certainty, but MuSK autoantibodies in myasthenic animals inhibited both agrin and agrin-independent AChR clustering. MuSK plays multiple roles in pre-patterning of the postsynaptic membrane before innervation and formation of NMJ in embryos. Some of these mechanisms may also participate in the maintenance of mature NMJ. This model system would provide new knowledge about the molecular pathogenesis of MG and MuSK functions in mature NMJ.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 07/2008; 1132:93-8. · 4.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) is critical for the synaptic clustering of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and plays multiple roles in the organization and maintenance of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). MuSK is activated by agrin, which is released from motoneurons, and induces AChR clustering at the postsynaptic membrane. Although autoantibodies against the ectodomain of MuSK have been found in a proportion of patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG), it is unclear whether MuSK autoantibodies are the causative agent of generalized MG. In the present study, rabbits immunized with MuSK ectodomain protein manifested MG-like muscle weakness with a reduction of AChR clustering at the NMJs. The autoantibodies activated MuSK and blocked AChR clustering induced by agrin or by mediators that do not activate MuSK. Thus MuSK autoantibodies rigorously inhibit AChR clustering mediated by multiple pathways, an outcome that broadens our general comprehension of the pathogenesis of MG.
    Journal of Clinical Investigation 05/2006; 116(4):1016-24. · 12.81 Impact Factor