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Nature. 2004 Sep 30;431(7008):578-82.

A transmembrane protein required for acetylcholine receptor clustering in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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INSERM U.497, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.


Clustering neurotransmitter receptors at the synapse is crucial for efficient neurotransmission. Here we identify a Caenorhabditis elegans locus, lev-10, required for postsynaptic aggregation of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). lev-10 mutants were identified on the basis of weak resistance to the anthelminthic drug levamisole, a nematode-specific cholinergic agonist that activates AChRs present at neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) resulting in muscle hypercontraction and death at high concentrations. In lev-10 mutants, the density of levamisole-sensitive AChRs at NMJs is markedly reduced, yet the number of functional AChRs present at the muscle cell surface remains unchanged. LEV-10 is a transmembrane protein localized to cholinergic NMJs and required in body-wall muscles for AChR clustering. We also show that the LEV-10 extracellular region, containing five predicted CUB domains and one LDLa domain, is sufficient to rescue AChR aggregation in lev-10 mutants. This suggests a mechanism for AChR clustering that relies on extracellular protein-protein interactions. Such a mechanism is likely to be evolutionarily conserved because CUB/LDL transmembrane proteins similar to LEV-10, but lacking any assigned function, are expressed in the mammalian nervous system and might be used to cluster ionotropic receptors in vertebrates.

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