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Neuroscience. 1996 Jul;73(2):613-22.

Ciliary neurotrophic factor: regulation of acetylcholinesterase in skeletal muscle and distribution of messenger RNA encoding its receptor in synaptic versus extrasynaptic compartments.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Several recent studies have shown that the ciliary neurotrophic factor exerts myotrophic effects in addition to its well-characterized neurotrophic actions on various neuronal populations. Since expression of acetylcholinesterase in skeletal muscle has been shown to be regulated by putative yet unknown nerve-derived trophic factors, we tested the hypothesis that the ciliary neurotrophic factor is a neurotrophic agent capable of influencing expression of acetylcholinesterase in adult rat skeletal muscle in vivo. To this end, we first determined the impact of daily ciliary neurotrophic factor administration on expression of acetylcholinesterase in both intact and denervated rat soleus muscles. The results of our experiments indicate that although chronic administration of ciliary neurotrophic factor partially counteracted the atrophic response of soleus muscles to surgical denervation, thus confirming its myotrophic effects, it failed to either increase acetylcholinesterase expression in intact muscles or prevent the decrease normally occurring in seven-day denervated muscles. In fact, acetylcholinesterase messenger RNA and enzyme levels were further reduced by ciliary neurotrophic factor treatment in denervated muscles without significant modifications in the pattern of acetylcholinesterase molecular forms. Conversely, transcript levels of the epsilon subunit of the acetylcholine receptor in intact and denervated soleus muscles treated with the ciliary neurotrophic factor were similar to those observed in their respective counterparts from vehicle-treated animals. In addition, we also determined whether transcripts encoding the receptor for the ciliary neurotrophic factor selectively accumulate in junctional domains of rat skeletal muscle fibres. In contrast to the preferential localization of transcripts encoding acetylcholinesterase and the epsilon subunit of the acetylcholine receptor within the postsynaptic sarcoplasm, messenger RNAs for the ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor appeared homogeneously distributed between junctional and extra-junctional compartments of both diaphragm and extensor digitorum longus muscle fibres, with no compelling evidence for a selective accumulation within the postsynaptic sarcoplasm. These data show that the ciliary neurotrophic factor exerts an inhibitory influence on expression of acetylcholinesterase in muscle fibres. Furthermore, the lack of an effect on expression of the epsilon acetylcholine receptor transcripts indicates that treatment with ciliary neurotrophic factor does not lead to general adaptations in the expression of all synaptic proteins. Given the distribution of transcripts encoding the ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor along multinucleated muscle fibres, we propose a model whereby the ciliary neurotrophic factor, or a related unknown molecule that also utilizes the receptor for the ciliary neurotrophic factor, contributes to the maintenance of low levels of enzyme activity in extrajunctional regions of muscle fibres by acting as a repressor of acetylcholinesterase expression that functions directly or indirectly via a pretranslational regulatory mechanism. Accordingly, these results further highlight the complexity of the regulatory mechanisms presiding over acetylcholinesterase expression in vivo.

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