A mouse model of AChR deficiency syndrome with a phenotype reflecting the human condition.
Cossins J., Webster R., Maxwell S., Burke G., Vincent A., Beeson D.
The two subtypes of mammalian muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChR) are generated by the substitution of the epsilon (adult) subunit for the gamma (fetal) subunit within the AChR pentamer. Null mutations of the adult AChR epsilon-subunit gene are the most common cause of the AChR deficiency syndrome. This is a disorder of neuromuscular transmission characterized by non-progressive fatigable muscle weakness present throughout life. In contrast with the human disorder, mice with AChR epsilon-subunit null mutations die between 10 and 14 weeks of age. We generated transgenic mice that constitutively express the human AChR gamma-subunit in an AChR epsilon-subunit 'knock-out' background. These mice, in which neuromuscular transmission is mediated by fetal AChR, live well into adult life but show striking similarities to human AChR deficiency syndrome. They display fatigable muscle weakness, reduced miniature endplate potentials and endplate potentials, reduced motor endplate AChR number and altered endplate morphology. Our results illustrate how species differences in the control of ion-channel gene expression may affect disease phenotype, demonstrate that expression of adult AChR subtype is not essential for long-term survival, and suggest that in patients with AChR deficiency syndrome, up-regulation of the gamma-subunit could be a beneficial therapeutic strategy.