Congenital myasthenic syndromes: genetic defects of the neuromuscular junction

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2002 Jan;2(1):78-88. doi: 10.1007/s11910-002-0057-7.


Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) stem from defects in presynaptic, synaptic, and postsynaptic proteins. The presynaptic CMS are associated with defects that curtail the evoked release of acetylcholine (ACh) quanta or the resynthesis of ACh. Insufficient resynthesis of ACh is now known to be caused by mutations that reduce the expression, catalytic efficiency, or both of choline acetyltransferase. The synaptic CMS are caused by mutations in the collagenic tail subunit (ColQ) of the endplate species of acetylcholinesterase that prevent ColQ from associating with catalytic subunits or from insertion into the synaptic basal lamina. With one exception, postsynaptic CMS identified to date are associated with a kinetic abnormality or decreased expression of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR). Numerous mutations have now been identified in subunits of AChR that alter the kinetics or surface expression of the receptor. The kinetic mutations increase or decrease the synaptic response to ACh and result in slow- and fast-channel syndromes, respectively. Most mutations that reduce surface expression of AChR reside in the receptor's epsilon subunit and are partially compensated by residual expression of the fetal-type gamma subunit. Null mutations in both alleles of other AChR subunits are likely lethal, owing to absence of a substituting subunit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Myasthenic Syndromes, Congenital / genetics*
  • Myasthenic Syndromes, Congenital / physiopathology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / genetics*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology