Developmental increase in the amount of rapsyn per acetylcholine receptor promotes postsynaptic receptor packing and stability

Dev Biol. 2007 May 1;305(1):262-75. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.02.008. Epub 2007 Feb 16.


Neuromuscular synaptic transmission depends upon tight packing of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) into postsynaptic AChR aggregates, but not all postsynaptic AChRs are aggregated. Here we describe a new confocal Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) assay for semi-quantitative comparison of the degree to which AChRs are aggregated at synapses. During the first month of postnatal life the mouse tibialis anterior muscle showed increases both in the number of postsynaptic AChRs and the efficiency with which AChR was aggregated (by FRET). There was a concurrent two-fold increase in immunofluorescent labeling for the AChR-associated cytoplasmic protein, rapsyn. When 1-month old muscle was denervated, postsynaptic rapsyn immunostaining was reduced, as was the efficiency of AChR aggregation. In vivo electroporation of rapsyn-EGFP into muscle fibers increased postsynaptic rapsyn levels. Those synapses with higher ratios of rapsyn-EGFP to AChR displayed a slower metabolic turnover of AChR. Conversely, the reduction of postsynaptic rapsyn after denervation was accompanied by an acceleration of AChR turnover. Thus, a developmental increase in the amount of rapsyn targeted to the postsynaptic membrane may drive enhanced postsynaptic AChRs aggregation and AChR stability within the postsynaptic membrane.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Neuromuscular Junction / growth & development*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism*
  • Receptor Aggregation / physiology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Muscle Proteins
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • peripheral membrane protein 43K