Synapse-forming axons and recombinant agrin induce microprocess formation on myotubes

Chang Sub Uhm, Birgit Neuhuber, Brian Lowe, Virginia Crocker, Mathew P. Daniels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


We examined cell-surface behavior at nerve-muscle contacts during synaptogenesis in cocultures of rat ventral spinal cord (VSC) neurons and myotubes. Developing synapses in 1-d-old cocultures were identified by the presence of axon-induced acetylcholine receptor (AChR) aggregation. Identified regions were then examined by transmission and scanning electron microscopy. The myotube surface near contacts with axons that induced AChR aggregation typically displayed ruffles, microvilli, and filopodia (microprocesses), indicating motility of the myotube surface. At some of these contact sites microprocesses were wrapped around the axon, resulting in the partial or total "submersion" of the axon within the myotube contours. Sites of myotube contact with somata and dendrites of the same neurons showed much less evidence of motility and surface interaction than sites of contact with axons. Moreover, the distance between opposed membranes of axons and myotubes was smaller than between dendrites or somata and myotubes, suggesting stronger adhesion of axons. These results suggest polarized expression of molecules involved in the induction of microprocess formation and adhesion in developing VSC neurons. We therefore tested the ability of agrin, which is preferentially secreted by axons, to induce microprocess formation in myotubes. Addition of recombinant C-terminal agrin to culture medium resulted in formation of microprocesses within 3 hr. Myotubes transfected with full-length rat agrin constructs displayed numerous filopodia, as revealed by fluorescence microscopy. The results suggest that the induction of muscle cell surface motility may be linked to the signaling processes that trigger the initial formation of the neuromuscular junction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9678-9689
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Dec 15
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine receptor
  • Cell adhesion
  • Cell motility
  • Neuromuscular junction
  • Neuronal polarity
  • Synapse formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Synapse-forming axons and recombinant agrin induce microprocess formation on myotubes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this