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The beta-adrenergic agonist salbutamol modulates neuromuscular junction formation in zebrafish models of human myasthenic syndromes

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Grace McMacken, Daniel CoxORCiD, Dr Andreas Roos, Professor Roger Whittaker, Professor Hanns Lochmuller



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Inherited defects of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) comprise an increasingly diverse range of disorders, termed congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS). Therapies acting on the sympathetic nervous system, including the selective ß2 adrenergic agonist salbutamol and the a and ß adrenergic agonist ephedrine, have become standard treatment for several types of CMS. However, the mechanism of the therapeutic effect of sympathomimetics in these disorders is not understood. Here, we examined the effect of salbutamol on NMJ development using zebrafish with deficiency of the key postsynaptic proteins Dok-7 and MuSK. Treatment with salbutamol reduced motility defects in zebrafish embryos and larvae. In addition, salbutamol lead to morphological improvement of postsynaptic acetycholine receptor (AChR) clustering and size of synaptic contacts in Dok-7-deficient zebrafish. In MuSK-deficient zebrafish, salbutamol treatment reduced motor axon pathfinding defects and partially restored the formation of aneural prepatterned AChRs. In addition, the effects of salbutamol treatment were prevented by pre-treatment with a selective ß2 antagonist. Treatment with the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) activator forskolin, replicated the effects of salbutamol treatment. These results suggest that sympathomimetics exert a direct effect on neuromuscular synaptogenesis and do so via ß2 adrenoceptors and via a cAMP-dependent pathway.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McMacken G, Cox D, Roos A, Müller J, Whittaker R, Lochmüller H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Molecular Genetics

Year: 2018

Volume: 27

Issue: 9

Pages: 1556–1564

Print publication date: 01/05/2018

Online publication date: 16/02/2018

Acceptance date: 14/02/2018

Date deposited: 19/04/2018

ISSN (print): 0964-6906

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2083

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddy062


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Funder referenceFunder name
201064/Z/16/ZWellcome Trust