Neuromuscular synaptogenesis: clustering of acetylcholine receptors revisited

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Aug;59(8):1296-316. doi: 10.1007/s00018-002-8509-4.


Clustering of neurotransmitter receptors in the postsynaptic membrane is critical for efficient synaptic transmission. During neuromuscular synaptogenesis, clustering of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) is an early sign of postsynaptic differentiation. Recent studies have revealed that the earliest AChR clusters can form in the muscle independent of motorneurons. Neurally released agrin, acting through the muscle-specific kinase MuSK and rapsyn, then causes further clustering and localization of clusters underneath the nerve terminal. AChRs themselves are required for agrin-induced clustering of several postsynaptic proteins, most notably rapsyn. Once formed, AChR clusters are stabilized by several tyrosine kinases and by components of the dystrophin/utrophin glycoprotein complex, some of which also direct postnatal synaptic maturation such as formation of postjunctional folds. This review summarizes these recent results about AChR clustering, which indicate that early clustering can occur in the absence of nerves, that AChRs play an active role in the clustering process and that partly different mechanisms direct formation versus stabilization of AChR clusters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Cholinergic