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Strong communication between brain and muscle requires both having the protein LRP4
Date:7/11/2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. Communication between the brain and muscle must be strong for us to eat, breathe or walk. Now scientists have found that a protein known to be on the surface of muscle cells must be present in both tissues to ensure the conversation is robust.

Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University have shown that without LRP4 in muscle cells and neurons, communication between the two cells types is inefficient and short-lived.

Problems with the protein appear to contribute to disabling disorders such as myasthenia gravis and other forms of muscular dystrophy. The MCG scientists reported finding antibodies to LRP4 in the blood of about 2 percent of patients with muscle-degenerating myasthenia gravis in Archives of Neurology earlier this year.

Scientists know that LRP4 plays an important role in the muscle cell, where it receives cues from the brain cell that it's time to form the receptors that will be enable ongoing communication between the two, said Dr. Lin Mei, Director of the GHSU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and corresponding author of the study in the journal Neuron.

However when Dr. Haitao Wu deleted LRP4 just from muscle cells, a connection albeit a weak one still formed between muscle and brain cells. The mice survived several days during which they experienced some of the same muscle weakness as patients with myasthenia gravis. "That's against the dogma," Mei said. "If LRP4 is essential only in the muscle cells, how could the mice survive?" When they totally eliminated LRP4, neuromuscular junctions never formed and the mice didn't survive.

Additional evidence suggests that LRP4 in the neurons is vital, said Wu, postdoctoral fellow and the study's first author. "When we knocked out the LRP4 gene in the muscles, there was some redundant function coming from the motor neuron, like a rescue attempt," he said. They documented the
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Contact: Greg Deriso
gderiso@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-7134
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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