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EMBO J. 1994 Jun 15;13(12):2814-21.

Structural domains of agrin required for clustering of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, CA 94305.


Agrin is an extracellular matrix component which promotes the clustering of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and other proteins at the neuromuscular junction. This aggregation process is one of the earliest steps in synapse formation. Expression of highly active isoforms of agrin, generated by alternative splicing, is restricted to neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) including motoneurons. In the experiments reported here we investigate the regions of agrin necessary for nAChR clustering activity using two different methods. First, we expressed truncated soluble forms of the agrin protein in mammalian cells and assessed their clustering activity. Second, we generated a panel of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against agrin and mapped their epitopes. Several mAbs block agrin-induced aggregation of nAChRs. One of the mAbs, Agr86, binds exclusively to the CNS-specific splicing variants and thus identifies an epitope common only to these more active isoforms. Mapping of the Agr86 epitope suggests that alternative splicing results in a distributed conformational change in the agrin protein. Taken together our data suggest that four domains in the C-terminal 55 kDa of agrin contribute to its nAChR clustering activity.

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