Nitric oxide and cyclic GMP regulate early events in agrin signaling in skeletal muscle cells

Exp Cell Res. 2010 Jul 15;316(12):1935-45. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2010.03.016. Epub 2010 Mar 24.


Agrin released from motor nerve terminals directs differentiation of the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Activity of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), guanylate cyclase (GC), and cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG) contributes to agrin signaling in embryonic frog and chick muscle cells. Stimulation of the NO/cyclic GMP (cGMP) pathway in embryos potentiates agrin's ability to aggregate acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) at NMJs. Here we investigated the timing and mechanism of NO and cGMP action. Agrin increased NO levels in mouse C2C12 myotubes. NO donors potentiated agrin-induced AChR aggregation during the first 20 min of agrin treatment, but overnight treatment with NO donors inhibited agrin activity. Adenoviruses encoding siRNAs against each of three NOS isoforms reduced agrin activity, indicating that these isoforms all contribute to agrin signaling. Inhibitors of NOS, GC, or PKG reduced agrin-induced AChR aggregation in mouse muscle cells by approximately 50%. However, increased activation of the GTPase Rac1, an early step in agrin signaling, was dependent on NOS activity and was mimicked by NO donors and a cGMP analog. Our results indicate that stimulation of the NO/cGMP pathway is important during the first few minutes of agrin signaling and is required for agrin-induced Rac1 activation, a key step leading to reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton and subsequent aggregation of AChRs on the surface of skeletal muscle cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agrin / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Agrin
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Cyclic GMP