Globular and asymmetric acetylcholinesterase in the synaptic basal lamina of skeletal muscle.
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The aim of this study was to characterize the molecular forms of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) associated with the synaptic basal lamina at the neuromuscular junction. The observations were made on the neuromuscular junctions of cutaneous pectoris muscles of frog, Rana pipiens, which are similar to junctions of most other vertebrates including mammals, but are especially convenient for experimentation. By measuring relative AChE activity in junctional and extrajunctional regions of muscles after selective inactivation of extracellular AChE with echothiophate, or of intracellular AChE with DFP and 2-PAM, we found that > 66% of the total AChE activity in the muscle was junction-specific, and that > 50% of the junction-specific AChE was on the cell surface. More than 80% of the cell surface AChE was solubilized in high ionic strength detergent-free buffer, indicating that most, if not all, was a component of the synaptic basal lamina. Sedimentation analysis of that fraction indicated that while asymmetric forms (A12, A8) were abundant, globular forms sedimenting at 4-6 S (G1 and G2), composed > 50% of the AChE. It was also found that when muscles were damaged in various ways that caused degeneration of axons and muscle fibers but left intact the basal lamina sheaths, the small globular forms persisted at the synaptic site for weeks after phagocytosis of cellular components; under certain damage conditions, the proportion of globular to asymmetric forms in the vacated basal lamina sheaths was as in normal junctions. While the asymmetric forms required high ionic strength for solubilization, the extracellular globular AChE could be extracted from the junctional regions of normal and damaged muscles by isotonic buffer. Some of the globular AChE appeared to be amphiphilic when examined in detergents, suggesting that it may form hydrophobic interactions, but most was non-amphiphilic consistent with the possibility that it forms weak electrostatic interactions. We conclude that the major form of AChE in frog synaptic basal lamina is globular and that its mode of association with the basal lamina differs from that of the asymmetric forms.