Accelerated degradation of acetylcholine receptor from cultured rat myotubes with myasthenia gravis sera and globulins
Altered geometry of the neuromuscular junction and a decreased number of acetylcholine receptors appear responsible for the defect of neuromuscular transmission in myasthenia gravis. We have used cultured rat myotubes as a model to study in vitro the potential role of myasthenic globulins in the pathological process. Acetylcholine receptor content was assayed by the extent of 125I-labeled alpha-bungarotoxin binding, and acetylcholine receptor function was assayed by the sensitivity to acetylcholine iontophoresis. The half-life of the acetylcholine receptor was 18.5 hr in the presence or absence of control sera. Myasthenic sera and globulins produced a gradual reduction in acetylcholine receptors, as assessed by biochemical and electrophysiological techniques. The half-life in the presence of myasthenic sera was 6 hr. The accelerated turnover was unaffected by puromycin but was slowed by lowered temperature (18-20 degrees), interference with energy metabolism (2,4-dinitrophenol), and interference with cytoskeletal structures (colchicine and cytochalasin B). We found no electrophysiological evidence to suggest globulin blockade of acetylcholine access to the acetylcholine receptor. Our observations suggest that circulating globulins in myasthenia gravis may contribute to the functional defects of neuromuscular transmission by accelerating the rate of internationalization and degradation of surface membrane acetylcholine receptors.