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Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jul;6(7):717-23.

Postsynaptic requirement for Abl kinases in assembly of the neuromuscular junction.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Box 3813, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Agrin signals through the muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (MuSK) to cluster acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) on the postsynaptic membrane of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). This stands as the prevailing model of synapse induction by a presynaptic factor, yet the agrin-dependent MuSK signaling cascade is largely undefined. Abl1 (previously known as Abl) and the Abl1-related gene product Abl2 (previously known as Arg) define a family of tyrosine kinases that regulate actin structure and presynaptic axon guidance. Here we show that the Abl kinases are critical mediators of postsynaptic assembly downstream of agrin and MuSK. In mouse muscle, Abl kinases were localized to the postsynaptic membrane of the developing NMJ. In cultured myotubes, Abl kinase activity was required for agrin-induced AChR clustering and enhancement of MuSK tyrosine phosphorylation. Moreover, MuSK and Abl kinases effected reciprocal tyrosine phosphorylation and formed a complex after agrin engagement. Our findings suggest that Abl kinases provide the developing synapse with the kinase activity required for signal amplification and the intrinsic cytoskeletal regulatory capacity required for assembly and remodeling.

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