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Ectopic expression of NCAM in skeletal muscle of transgenic mice results in terminal sprouting at the neuromuscular junction and altered structure but not function

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Clarke Slater


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The neuromuscular system provides an excellent model for the analysis of molecular interactions involved in the development and plasticity of synaptic contacts. The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) is believed to be involved in the development and plasticity of the neuromuscular junction, in particular the axonal sprouting response observed in paralyzed and denervated muscle. In order to explore the role of myofiber NCAM in modulating the differentiation of motor neurons, we generated transgenic mice expressing a GPI-anchored NCAM isoform that is normally found in developing and denervated muscle, under the control of a skeletal muscle-specific promoter. This results in the constitutive expression of NCAM at postnatal ages, a time when the endogenous mouse NCAM is absent from the myofiber. We found that a significant number of neuromuscular junctions in adult transgenic animals displayed terminal sprouting (>20%) reminiscent of that elicited in response to cessation of neuromuscular activity. additionally, a significant increase in the size and complexity of neuromuscular synapses as a result of extensive intraterminal sprouting was detected. Electrophysiological studies, however, revealed no significant alterations of neuromuscular transmission at this highly efficient synapse. Sprouting in response to paralysis or following nerve crush was also significantly enhanced in transgenic animals. These results suggest that in this ectopic expression model NCAM can directly modulate synaptic structure and motor neuron-muscle interactions. The results contrast with knockout experiments of the NCAM gene, where very limited changes in the neuromuscular system were observed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Walsh FS, Hobbs C, Wells DJ, Slater CR, Fazeli S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Year: 2000

Volume: 15

Issue: 3

Pages: 244-261

ISSN (print): 1044-7431

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9327

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1006/mcne.1999.0815


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