Specific binding of collagen Q to the neuromuscular junction is exploited to cure congenital myasthenia and to explore bases of myasthenia gravis

Kinji Ohno, Mikako Ito, Yu Kawakami, Eric Krejci, Andrew G. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is anchored to the synaptic basal lamina via a triple helical collagen Q (ColQ) in the form of asymmetric AChE (AChE/ColQ). The C-terminal domain of ColQ binds to MuSK, the muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase, that mediates a signal for acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clustering at the NMJ. ColQ also binds to heparan sulfate proteoglycans including perlecan. Congenital defects of ColQ cause endplate AChE deficiency. A single intravenous administration of adeno-associated virus serotype 8 (AAV8)-COLQ to Colq-/- mice rescued motor functions, synaptic transmission, and the ultrastructure of NMJ. We also injected AAV1-COLQ-IRES-EGFP to the left tibialis anterior and observed colocalization of AChE/ColQ at all the examined NMJs of the non-injected limbs. Additionally, injection of purified recombinant AChE/ColQ protein complex into gluteus maximus accumulated AChE in non-injected forelimbs. These observations suggest that the tissue-targeting signal of ColQ can be exploited to specifically deliver the transgene product to the target tissue. MuSK antibody-positive myasthenia gravis (MG) accounts for 5-15% of autoimmune MG. As AChR deficiency is typically mild and as cholinesterase inhibitors are generally ineffective or worsen myasthenic symptoms, we asked if the patient's MuSK-IgG interferes with binding of ColQ to MuSK. In vitro overlay of AChE/ColQ to muscle sections of Colq-/- mice revealed that MuSK-IgG blocks binding of ColQ to the NMJ. In vitro plate-binding of MuSK to ColQ disclosed that MuSK-IgG exerts a dose-dependent block of MuSK-ColQ interaction. In addition, passive transfer of MuSK-IgG to mice reduced the size and density of ColQ to ∼10% of controls and had a lesser effect on the sizes and densities of AChR and MuSK. Elucidation of molecular mechanisms of specific binding of ColQ to the NMJ enabled us to ameliorate devastating myasthenic symptoms of Colq-/- mice and to reveal bases of anti-MuSK MG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-340
Number of pages6
JournalChemico-biological interactions
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 25 2013


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Adeno-associated virus
  • Collagen Q
  • Myasthenia gravis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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