A factor in extracts of the electric organ of Torpedo californica causes the formation of clusters of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and aggregates of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) on myotubes in culture. In vivo, AChRs and AChE accumulate at the same locations on myofibers, as components of the postsynaptic apparatus at neuromuscular junctions. The aim of this study was to compare the distribution of AChRs, AChE, and butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), a third component of the postsynaptic apparatus, on control and extract-treated myotubes. Electric organ extracts induced the formation of patches that contained high concentrations of all three molecules. The extract-induced aggregation of AChRs, AChE, and BuChE occurred in defined medium, and these components accumulated in patches simultaneously. Three lines of evidence indicate that a single factor in the extracts induced the aggregation of all three components: the dose dependence for the formation of patches of AChRs was the same as that for patches of AChE and BuChE; the AChE- and BuChE-aggregating activities co-purified with the AChR-aggregating activity; and all three aggregating activities were immunoprecipitated at the same titer by a monoclonal antibody against the AChR-aggregating factor. We have shown previously that this monoclonal antibody binds to molecules concentrated in the synaptic cleft at neuromuscular junctions. Taken together, these results suggest that during development and regeneration of myofibers in vivo, the accumulation at synaptic sites of at least three components of the postsynaptic apparatus, AChRs, AChE, and BuChE, are all triggered by the same molecule, a molecule similar if not identical to the electric organ aggregating factor
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