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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Up to 50% of patients with myasthenia gravis (MG) without acetylcholine receptor antibodies (AChR-Abs) have antibodies to muscle-specific kinase (MuSK). Most MuSK antibodies (MuSK-Abs) are IgG4 and inhibit agrin-induced MuSK phosphorylation, leading to impaired clustering of AChRs at the developing or mature neuromuscular junction. However, IgG1-3 MuSK-Abs also exist in MuSK-MG patients, and their potential mechanisms have not been explored fully. METHODS: C2C12 myotubes were exposed to MuSK-MG plasma IgG1-3 or IgG4, with or without purified agrin. MuSK, Downstream of Kinase 7 (DOK7), and βAChR were immunoprecipitated and their phosphorylation levels identified by immunoblotting. Agrin and agrin-independent AChR clusters were measured by immunofluorescence and AChR numbers by binding of 125I-α-bungarotoxin. Transcriptomic analysis was performed on treated myotubes. RESULTS: IgG1-3 MuSK-Abs impaired AChR clustering without inhibiting agrin-induced MuSK phosphorylation. Moreover, the well-established pathway initiated by MuSK through DOK7, resulting in βAChR phosphorylation, was not impaired by MuSK-IgG1-3 and was agrin-independent. Nevertheless, the AChR clusters did not form, and both the number of AChR microclusters that precede full cluster formation and the myotube surface AChRs were reduced. Transcriptomic analysis did not throw light on the pathways involved. However, the SHP2 inhibitor, NSC-87877, increased the number of microclusters and led to fully formed AChR clusters. DISCUSSION: MuSK-IgG1-3 is pathogenic but seems to act through a noncanonical pathway. Further studies should throw light on the mechanisms involved at the neuromuscular junction.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm

Publication Date





Humans, Phosphorylation, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Agrin, Receptors, Cholinergic, Myasthenia Gravis, Immunoglobulin G, Muscle Proteins