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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Oct;87(20):8100-4.

Steroids induce acetylcholine receptors on cultured human muscle: implications for myasthenia gravis.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305-5332.


Antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor (AChR), which are diagnostic of the human autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis, block AChR function and increase the rate of AChR degradation leading to impaired neuromuscular transmission. Steroids are frequently used to alleviate symptoms of muscle fatigue and weakness in patients with myasthenia gravis because of their well-documented immunosuppressive effects. We show here that the steroid dexamethasone significantly increases total surface AChRs on cultured human muscle exposed to myasthenia gravis sera. Our results suggest that the clinical improvement observed in myasthenic patients treated with steroids is due not only to an effect on the immune system but also to a direct effect on muscle. We propose that the identification and development of pharmacologic agents that augment receptors and other proteins that are reduced by human genetic or autoimmune disease will have broad therapeutic applications.

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