Crosslinking-Induced Endocytosis of Acetylcholine Receptors by Quantum Dots

Chi Wai Lee*, Hailong Zhang, Lin Geng, H. Benjamin Peng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In a majority of patients with myasthenia gravis (MG), anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR) antibodies target postsynaptic AChR clusters and thus compromise the membrane integrity of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) and lead to muscle weakness. Antibody-induced endocytosis of AChRs in the postsynaptic membrane represents the initial step in the pathogenesis of MG; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying AChR endocytosis remain largely unknown. Here, we developed an approach to mimic the pathogenic antibodies for inducing the crosslinking and internalization of AChRs from the postsynaptic membrane. Using biotin-α-bungarotoxin and quantum dot (QD)-streptavidin, cell-surface and internalized AChRs could be readily distinguished by comparing the size, fluorescence intensity, trajectory, and subcellular localization of the QD signals. QD-induced AChR endocytosis was mediated by clathrin-dependent and caveolin-independent mechanisms, and the trafficking of internalized AChRs in the early endosomes required the integrity of microtubule structures. Furthermore, activation of the agrin/MuSK (muscle-specific kinase) signaling pathway strongly suppressed QD-induced internalization of AChRs. Lastly, QD-induced AChR crosslinking potentiated the dispersal of aneural AChR clusters upon synaptic induction. Taken together, our results identify a novel approach to study the mechanisms of AChR trafficking upon receptor crosslinking and endocytosis, and demonstrate that agrin-MuSK signaling pathways protect against crosslinking-induced endocytosis of AChRs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere90187
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2014


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