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J Cell Biol. 1987 Dec;105(6 Pt 1):2471-8.

Identification of agrin, a synaptic organizing protein from Torpedo electric organ.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


Extracts of the electric organ of Torpedo californica contain a proteinaceous factor that causes the formation of patches on cultured myotubes at which acetylcholine receptors (AChR), acetylcholinesterase (AChE), and butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) are concentrated. Results of previous experiments indicate that this factor is similar to the molecules in the synaptic basal lamina that direct the aggregation of AChR and AChE at regenerating neuromuscular junctions in vivo. We have purified the active components in the extracts 9,000-fold. mAbs against four different epitopes on the AChR/AChE/BuChE-aggregating molecules each immunoprecipitated four polypeptides from electric organ extracts, with molecular masses of 150, 135, 95, and 70 kD. Gel filtration chromatography of electric organ extracts revealed two peaks of AChR/AChE/BuChE-aggregation activity; one comigrated with the 150-kD polypeptide, the other with the 95-kD polypeptide. The 135- and 70-kD polypeptides did not cause AChR/AChE/BuChE aggregation. Based on these molecular characteristics and on the pattern of staining seen in sections of muscle labeled with the mAbs, we conclude that the electric organ-aggregating factor is distinct from previously identified molecules, and we have named it "agrin."

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