Dystrophin and utrophin isoforms are expressed in glia, but not neurons, of the avian parasympathetic ciliary ganglion.
Muscular dystrophy patients often show cognitive impairment, in addition to muscle degeneration caused by dystrophin gene defects. The cognitive impairments lead to speculation that the dystrophin protein family may play a key role at neuronal synapses. Dystrophin regulates the stability of selected GABA(A) receptor subtypes and alpha3-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) at a subset of central GABAergic and peripheral sympathetic nicotinic neuron synapses. Similarly, utrophin, the autosomal homologue of dystrophin, is not required for clustering but indirectly stabilizes muscle-type nAChRs at the neuromuscular junction. We examined dystrophin and utrophin expression and localization in the avian parasympathetic ciliary ganglion (CG) to determine whether these proteins play a general role at neuronal nicotinic synapses. We have determined that full-length utrophin and dystrophin and the short dystrophin isoform Dp116 are the major isoforms expressed in the CG based on immunoblotting and immunolabeling. Unexpectedly, the cytoskeletal proteins were not detected at nicotinic synapses or in CG neurons. They are expressed in myelinating and non-myelinating Schwann cells. Further, utrophin expression developmentally precedes that of dystrophin. The proteins show partially overlapping distributions, but also differential accumulation along the surface membrane of Schwann cells adjacent to neuronal somata versus axonal processes. Our findings are consistent with reports that dystrophin protein family members function in the maintenance of cell-cell interactions and myelination by anchoring the Schwann cell surface membrane to the basal lamina. In contrast, our results differ from those in skeletal muscle and a subset of sympathetic neurons where utrophin and dystrophin localize at nicotinic synapses.
Blitzblau, R; Storer, EK; Jacob, MH
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