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Special Issue "The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. David Beeson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, The John Radcliffe, Oxford OX3 9DS, UK
Interests: neuromuscular synapse; AChR function; myasthenic syndromes; molecular mechanisms of synaptic disease; synaptic stability

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The neuromuscular junction is the most studied and best understood synapse that acts a prototype for the study of diverse but less accessible central synaptic connections. Its study continues to reveal new insights into how synaptic connections are formed and maintained and the many different mechanisms through which synaptic function can be impaired.

This Special Issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences will focus on recent advances in our understanding of the formation and maintenance of the neuromuscular junction, new insights into the role of key neuromuscular junction proteins at the synapse, and updates on the disease mechanisms that can underlie synaptic dysfunction and how they may be treated.

Professor David Beeson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • neuromuscular synapse
  • NMJ synaptic development
  • AChR function
  • molecular mechanisms of synaptic disease
  • synapse stability

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Importance of Full-Collapse Vesicle Exocytosis for Synaptic Fatigue-Resistance at Rat Fast and Slow Muscle Neuromuscular Junctions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(7), 1936; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19071936 - 02 Jul 2018
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1760
Abstract
Neurotransmitter release during trains of activity usually involves two vesicle pools (readily releasable pool, or RRP, and reserve pool, or RP) and two exocytosis mechanisms (“full-collapse” and “kiss-and-run”). However, synaptic terminals are adapted to differing patterns of use and the relationship of these [...] Read more.
Neurotransmitter release during trains of activity usually involves two vesicle pools (readily releasable pool, or RRP, and reserve pool, or RP) and two exocytosis mechanisms (“full-collapse” and “kiss-and-run”). However, synaptic terminals are adapted to differing patterns of use and the relationship of these factors to enabling terminals to adapt to differing transmitter release demands is not clear. We have therefore tested their contribution to a terminal’s ability to maintain release, or synaptic fatiguability in motor terminals innervating fast-twitch (fatiguable), and postural slow-twitch (fatigue-resistant) muscles. We used electrophysiological recording of neurotransmission and fluorescent dye markers of vesicle recycling to compare the effects of kinase inhibitors of varying myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) selectivity (staurosporine, wortmannin, LY294002 & ML-9) on vesicle pools, exocytosis mechanisms, and sustained neurotransmitter release, using postural-type activity train (20 Hz for 10 min) in these muscles. In both muscles, a small, rapidly depleted vesicle pool (the RRP) was inhibitor insensitive, continuing to release FM1-43, which is a marker of full-collapse exocytosis. MLCK-inhibiting kinases blocked all remaining FM1-43 loss from labelled vesicles. However, FM2-10 release only slowed, indicating continuing kiss-and-run exocytosis. Despite this, kinase inhibitors did not affect transmitter release fatiguability under normal conditions. However, augmenting release in high Ca2+ entirely blocked the synaptic fatigue-resistance of terminals in slow-twitch muscles. Thus, full-collapse exocytosis from most vesicles (the RP) is not essential for maintaining release during a single prolonged train. However, it becomes critical in fatigue-resistant terminals during high vesicle demand. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Article
Postnatal Development and Distribution of Sympathetic Innervation in Mouse Skeletal Muscle
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(7), 1935; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19071935 - 01 Jul 2018
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 2942
Abstract
Vertebrate neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) have been conceived as tripartite synapses composed of motor neuron, Schwann cell, and muscle fiber. Recent work has shown the presence of sympathetic neurons in the immediate vicinity of NMJs and experimental and clinical findings suggest that this plays [...] Read more.
Vertebrate neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) have been conceived as tripartite synapses composed of motor neuron, Schwann cell, and muscle fiber. Recent work has shown the presence of sympathetic neurons in the immediate vicinity of NMJs and experimental and clinical findings suggest that this plays an eminent role in adult NMJ biology. The present study examined the postnatal development and distribution of sympathetic innervation in different muscles using immunofluorescence, confocal microscopy, and Western blot. This demonstrates the proximity of sympathetic neurons in diaphragm, extensor digitorum longus, tibialis anterior, soleus, and levator auris longus muscles. In extensor digitorum longus muscle, sympathetic innervation of NMJs was quantified from perinatal to adult stage and found to increase up to two months of age. In diaphragm muscle, an extensive network of sympathetic neurons was prominent along the characteristic central synapse band. In summary, these data demonstrate that an elaborate sympathetic innervation is present in several mouse skeletal muscles and that this is often next to NMJs. Although the presence of sympathetic neurons at the perisynaptic region of NMJs increased during postnatal development, many synapses were already close to sympathetic neurons at birth. Potential implications of these findings for treatment of neuromuscular diseases are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review

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Review
The Neuromuscular Junction and Wide Heterogeneity of Congenital Myasthenic Syndromes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(6), 1677; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19061677 - 05 Jun 2018
Cited by 48 | Viewed by 5170
Abstract
Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are genetic disorders characterised by impaired neuromuscular transmission. This review provides an overview on CMS and highlights recent advances in the field, including novel CMS causative genes and improved therapeutic strategies. CMS due to mutations in SLC5A7 and SLC18A3 [...] Read more.
Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are genetic disorders characterised by impaired neuromuscular transmission. This review provides an overview on CMS and highlights recent advances in the field, including novel CMS causative genes and improved therapeutic strategies. CMS due to mutations in SLC5A7 and SLC18A3, impairing the synthesis and recycling of acetylcholine, have recently been described. In addition, a novel group of CMS due to mutations in SNAP25B, SYT2, VAMP1, and UNC13A1 encoding molecules implicated in synaptic vesicles exocytosis has been characterised. The increasing number of presynaptic CMS exhibiting CNS manifestations along with neuromuscular weakness demonstrate that the myasthenia can be only a small part of a much more extensive disease phenotype. Moreover, the spectrum of glycosylation abnormalities has been increased with the report that GMPPB mutations can cause CMS, thus bridging myasthenic disorders with dystroglycanopathies. Finally, the discovery of COL13A1 mutations and laminin α5 deficiency has helped to draw attention to the role of extracellular matrix proteins for the formation and maintenance of muscle endplates. The benefit of β2-adrenergic agonists alone or combined with pyridostigmine or 3,4-Dyaminopiridine is increasingly being reported for different subtypes of CMS including AChR-deficiency and glycosylation abnormalities, thus expanding the therapeutic repertoire available. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
Animal Models of the Neuromuscular Junction, Vitally Informative for Understanding Function and the Molecular Mechanisms of Congenital Myasthenic Syndromes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(5), 1326; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19051326 - 29 Apr 2018
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2702
Abstract
The neuromuscular junction is the point of contact between motor nerve and skeletal muscle, its vital role in muscle function is reliant on the precise location and function of many proteins. Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are a heterogeneous group of disorders of neuromuscular [...] Read more.
The neuromuscular junction is the point of contact between motor nerve and skeletal muscle, its vital role in muscle function is reliant on the precise location and function of many proteins. Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are a heterogeneous group of disorders of neuromuscular transmission with 30 or more implicated proteins. The use of animal models has been instrumental in determining the specific role of many CMS-related proteins. The mouse neuromuscular junction (NMJ) has been extensively studied in animal models of CMS due to its amenability for detailed electrophysiological and histological investigations and relative similarity to human NMJ. As well as their use to determine the precise molecular mechanisms of CMS variants, where an animal model accurately reflects the human phenotype they become useful tools for study of therapeutic interventions. Many of the animal models that have been important in deconvolving the complexities of neuromuscular transmission and revealing the molecular mechanisms of disease are highlighted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
Neurophysiological Assessment of Abnormalities of the Neuromuscular Junction in Children
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(2), 624; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19020624 - 22 Feb 2018
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1812
Abstract
The function of the neuromuscular junction in children is amenable to electrophysiological testing. Of the two tests available, repetitive nerve stimulation is uncomfortable and has a reduced sensitivity compared with single-fibre methodology. The latter is the method of choice, recording the variability in [...] Read more.
The function of the neuromuscular junction in children is amenable to electrophysiological testing. Of the two tests available, repetitive nerve stimulation is uncomfortable and has a reduced sensitivity compared with single-fibre methodology. The latter is the method of choice, recording the variability in neuromuscular transmission as a value called jitter. It can be performed by voluntary activation of the muscle being examined, which is not suitable in children, or by stimulation techniques. A modification of these techniques, called Stimulated Potential Analysis with Concentric needle Electrodes (SPACE), is well tolerated and can be performed while the child is awake. It has a high sensitivity (84%) for the diagnosis of neuromuscular transmission disorders, the majority of which are myasthenic syndromes, and a moderate specificity (70%). The latter can be improved by the exclusion of neurogenic causes and the determination of the degree of jitter abnormality. Minor jitter abnormalities, under 115% of the upper limit of normal, are usually caused by myopathies with an associated neuromuscular transmission disorder, whereas levels higher than this value are usually associated with one of the myasthenic conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
Fundamental Molecules and Mechanisms for Forming and Maintaining Neuromuscular Synapses
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(2), 490; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms19020490 - 06 Feb 2018
Cited by 40 | Viewed by 2976
Abstract
The neuromuscular synapse is a relatively large synapse with hundreds of active zones in presynaptic motor nerve terminals and more than ten million acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in the postsynaptic membrane. The enrichment of proteins in presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes ensures a rapid, robust, [...] Read more.
The neuromuscular synapse is a relatively large synapse with hundreds of active zones in presynaptic motor nerve terminals and more than ten million acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in the postsynaptic membrane. The enrichment of proteins in presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes ensures a rapid, robust, and reliable synaptic transmission. Over fifty years ago, classic studies of the neuromuscular synapse led to a comprehensive understanding of how a synapse looks and works, but these landmark studies did not reveal the molecular mechanisms responsible for building and maintaining a synapse. During the past two-dozen years, the critical molecular players, responsible for assembling the specialized postsynaptic membrane and regulating nerve terminal differentiation, have begun to be identified and their mechanism of action better understood. Here, we describe and discuss five of these key molecular players, paying heed to their discovery as well as describing their currently understood mechanisms of action. In addition, we discuss the important gaps that remain to better understand how these proteins act to control synaptic differentiation and maintenance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
The Structure of Human Neuromuscular Junctions: Some Unanswered Molecular Questions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(10), 2183; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms18102183 - 19 Oct 2017
Cited by 57 | Viewed by 4708
Abstract
The commands that control animal movement are transmitted from motor neurons to their target muscle cells at the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). The NMJs contain many protein species whose role in transmission depends not only on their inherent properties, but also on how they [...] Read more.
The commands that control animal movement are transmitted from motor neurons to their target muscle cells at the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). The NMJs contain many protein species whose role in transmission depends not only on their inherent properties, but also on how they are distributed within the complex structure of the motor nerve terminal and the postsynaptic muscle membrane. These molecules mediate evoked chemical transmitter release from the nerve and the action of that transmitter on the muscle. Human NMJs are among the smallest known and release the smallest number of transmitter “quanta”. By contrast, they have the most deeply infolded postsynaptic membranes, which help to amplify transmitter action. The same structural features that distinguish human NMJs make them particularly susceptible to pathological processes. While much has been learned about the molecules which mediate transmitter release and action, little is known about the molecular processes that control the growth of the cellular and subcellular components of the NMJ so as to give rise to its mature form. A major challenge for molecular biologists is to understand the molecular basis for the development and maintenance of functionally important aspects of NMJ structure, and thereby to point to new directions for treatment of diseases in which neuromuscular transmission is impaired. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
Neuromuscular Junction Dismantling in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(10), 2092; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms18102092 - 03 Oct 2017
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 5452
Abstract
Neuromuscular junction assembly and plasticity during embryonic, postnatal, and adult life are tightly regulated by the continuous cross-talk among motor nerve endings, muscle fibers, and glial cells. Altered communications among these components is thought to be responsible for the physiological age-related changes at [...] Read more.
Neuromuscular junction assembly and plasticity during embryonic, postnatal, and adult life are tightly regulated by the continuous cross-talk among motor nerve endings, muscle fibers, and glial cells. Altered communications among these components is thought to be responsible for the physiological age-related changes at this synapse and possibly for its destruction in pathological states. Neuromuscular junction dismantling plays a crucial role in the onset of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is characterized by the degeneration and death of motor neurons leading to skeletal muscle denervation, atrophy and, most often, death of the patient within five years from diagnosis. ALS is a non-cell autonomous disease as, besides motor neuron degeneration, glial cells, and possibly muscle fibers, play a role in its onset and progression. Here, we will review the recent literature regarding the mechanisms leading to neuromuscular junction disassembly and muscle denervation focusing on the role of the three players of this peripheral tripartite synapse. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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Review
Synaptic Homeostasis and Its Immunological Disturbance in Neuromuscular Junction Disorders
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(4), 896; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms18040896 - 24 Apr 2017
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3860
Abstract
In the neuromuscular junction, postsynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) clustering, trans-synaptic communication and synaptic stabilization are modulated by the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity. The synaptic functions are based presynaptically on the active zone architecture, synaptic vesicle proteins, Ca2+ channels and synaptic [...] Read more.
In the neuromuscular junction, postsynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) clustering, trans-synaptic communication and synaptic stabilization are modulated by the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity. The synaptic functions are based presynaptically on the active zone architecture, synaptic vesicle proteins, Ca2+ channels and synaptic vesicle recycling. Postsynaptically, they are based on rapsyn-anchored nAChR clusters, localized sensitivity to ACh, and synaptic stabilization via linkage to the extracellular matrix so as to be precisely opposed to the nerve terminal. Focusing on neural agrin, Wnts, muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (a mediator of agrin and Wnts signalings and regulator of trans-synaptic communication), low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (the receptor of agrin and Wnts and participant in retrograde signaling), laminin-network (including muscle-derived agrin), extracellular matrix proteins (participating in the synaptic stabilization) and presynaptic receptors (including muscarinic and adenosine receptors), we review the functional structures of the synapse by making reference to immunological pathogenecities in postsynaptic disease, myasthenia gravis. The synapse-related proteins including cortactin, coronin-6, caveolin-3, doublecortin, R-spondin 2, amyloid precursor family proteins, glia cell-derived neurotrophic factor and neurexins are also discussed in terms of their possible contribution to efficient synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Neuromuscular Synapse in Health and Disease)
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