Agrin activation of muscle specific kinase (MuSK) initiates postsynaptic development on skeletal muscle that includes the aggregation of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs; Glass et al. : Cell 85: 513-523; Gautam et al. : Cell 85: 525-535). Although the agrin/MuSK signaling pathway remains largely unknown, changes in intracellular calcium levels are required for agrin-induced AChR aggregation (Megeath and Fallon : J Neurosci 18: 672-678). Here, we show that L-type calcium channels (L-CaChs) are required for full agrin-induced aggregation of AChRs and sufficient to induce agrin-independent AChR aggregation. Blockade of L-CaChs in muscle cultures inhibited agrin-induced AChR aggregation but not tyrosine phosphorylation of MuSK or AChR beta subunits. Activation of L-CaChs in the absence of agrin induced AChR aggregation but not tyrosine phosphorylation of MuSK or AChR beta subunits. Agrin responsiveness was significantly reduced in primary muscle cultures from the muscular dysgenesis mouse, a natural mutant, which does not express the L-CaCh. Our results establish a novel role for L-CaChs as important sources of the intracellular calcium necessary for the aggregation of AChRs.
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