The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is indispensable for survival. This synapse between motoneurons and skeletal muscle fibers allows posture, movement and respiration. Therefore, its dysfunction creates pathologies than can be lethal. The molecular mechanisms of NMJ development and maintenance are the subject of intensive studies. This mini-review focuses on some of the most recent discoveries. An unexpected role for a protein, rapsyn, which has been known for 40 years to aggregate acetylcholine receptors has emerged. A new cell partner at NMJ has been unmasked and is challenging our understanding of the functioning of this synapse. Toxins are now used as new tools to study degeneration/regeneration. The possibility of creating human NMJ in vitro is within reach with major consequences for drug screening. Wnts are secreted neurogenic factors that have been involved in vitro in acetylcholine receptor clustering, but their precise role in vivo remains to be clarified. All these data are raising new and exciting perspectives in the field and are discussed in this Review. This is an article for the special issue XVth International Symposium on Cholinergic Mechanisms.
Keywords: Wnts; acetylcholine receptor; congenital myasthenic syndromes; latrotoxin; nerve degeneration; neuromuscular junction; rapsyn; sympathetic neuron.
© 2017 International Society for Neurochemistry.