Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.523, No.1, 214-219, 2020
Overexpression of Dok-7 in skeletal muscle enhances neuromuscular transmission with structural alterations of neuromuscular junctions: Implications in robustness of neuromuscular transmission
Neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) are cholinergic synapses characterized by ultrastructural specializations, including the presynaptic active zones, the acetylcholine (ACh) release sites of the motor nerve terminal, and the postsynaptic junctional folds of muscle membrane, where ACh receptors (AChRs) cluster for efficient neuromuscular transmission. The formation and maintenance of HMIs are governed by the muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase MuSK. We had previously demonstrated that the muscle cytoplasmic protein Dok-7 is an essential activator of MuSK, and its activation and NMJ formation are enhanced in the Dok-7 transgenic (Tg) mice, in which Dok-7 is specifically overexpressed in skeletal muscle. Although Dok-7 Tg mice develop abnormally large HMIs but show normal motor function, the forced expression of Dok-7 in the muscle improves impaired motor activity in mouse models of neuromuscular disorders with NMJ defects. However, the effect of Dok-7 overexpression in skeletal muscle on ultrastructure and neuromuscular transmission of HMIs is yet to be studied. Here, we investigated the structural and electrophysiological properties of HMIs in the diaphragm muscle of 8-week-old Dok-7 Tg mice. The areas of the presynaptic motor nerve terminals and postsynaptic muscle membrane of HMIs were 2.7 and 4.3 times greater in Dok-7 Tg mice than in WT mice, respectively. Electrophysiological analyses revealed that neuromuscular transmission via HMIs in Dok-7 Tg mice was significantly enhanced but not proportionally with the increased size of the synaptic contact. Consistent with this, the densities of active zones and synaptic vesicles (ACh carriers) in the presynaptic motor nerve terminals were reduced. In addition, the density and size of postsynaptic junctional folds in the muscle membrane were also reduced. Moreover, terminal Schwann cells exhibited significantly greater penetration of their processes into the synaptic clefts, which connect the pre- and post-synaptic specializations. Together, our findings demonstrate that transgenic overexpression of Dok-7 in the skeletal muscle enhances neuromuscular transmission with significant enlargement and ultrastructural alterations of HMIs, the latter of which might prevent toxic overactivation of AChRs at the abnormally enlarged HMIs. (C) 2019 Published by Elsevier Inc.