At the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ), postsynaptic aggregation of muscle acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) depends on the activation of MuSK, a muscle-specific tyrosine kinase that is stimulated by neural agrin and regulated by muscle-intrinsic tyrosine kinases and phosphatases. We recently reported that Shp2, a tyrosine phosphatase containing src homology two domains, suppressed MuSK-dependent AChR clustering in cultured myotubes, but how this effect of Shp2 is controlled has remained unclear. In this study, biochemical assays showed that agrin-treatment of C2 mouse myotubes enhanced the tyrosine phosphorylation of signal regulatory protein alpha1 (SIRPalpha1), a known activator of Shp2, and promoted SIRPalpha1's interaction with Shp2. Moreover, in situ experiments revealed that treatment of myotubes with the Shp2-selective inhibitor NSC-87877 increased spontaneous and agrin-induced AChR clustering, and that AChR clustering was also enhanced in myotubes ectopically expressing inactive (dominant-negative) Shp2; in contrast, AChR clustering was reduced in myotubes expressing constitutively active Shp2. Significantly, expression of truncated (nonShp2-binding) and full-length (Shp2-binding) forms of SIRPalpha1 in myotubes also increased and decreased AChR clustering, respectively, and coexpression of truncated SIRPalpha1 with active Shp2 and full-length SIRPalpha1 with inactive Shp2 reversed the actions of the exogenous Shp2 proteins on AChR clustering. These results suggest that SIRPalpha1 is a novel downstream target of MuSK that activates Shp2, which, in turn, suppresses AChR clustering. We propose that an inhibitory loop involving both tyrosine kinases and phosphatases sets the level of agrin/MuSK signaling and constrains it spatially to help generate high-density AChR clusters selectively at NMJs.
2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc