Neurotransmitter receptors are generally clustered in the postsynaptic membrane. The mechanism of clustering was analyzed with fibroblast cell lines that were stably transfected with the four subunits for fetal (α, β, γ, δ) or adult (α, β, ε, δ) type mouse muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). Immunofluorescent staining indicated that AChRs were dispersed on the surface of these cells. When transiently transfected with an expression construct encoding a 43-kilodalton protein that is normally concentrated under the postsynaptic membrane, AChRs expressed in these cells became aggregated in large cell-surface clusters, colocalized with the 43-kilodalton protein. This suggests that 43-kilodalton protein can induce AChR clustering and that cluster induction involves direct contact between AChR and 43-kilodalton protein.
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