Lectin binding reveals a synapse-specific carbohydrate in skeletal muscle

Abstract

Molecules concentrated at synapses are of interest because they may have roles in synaptic development or function. Several ‘synapse-specific’ proteins have been identified at the skeletal neuromuscular junction; acetylcholine (ACh) receptors1, acetylcholinesterase2, some components of the basal lamina3 and a number of cytoskeletal elements4,5, are all present at far higher concentrations at synaptic sites than elsewhere on the muscle fibre surface. As carbohydrates are thought to be involved in neuronal recognition, adhesion and synapto-genesis6–12, we have asked whether any saccharide moieties are similarly concentrated at synaptic sites on muscle fibres. Lectins sare proteins that bind to carbohydrates; each has its own sugar specificity13,14. Fluorescent and other derivatives of lectins have been used as histochemical stains to study the nature and distribution of carbohydrates on many cell types13–16 including neurones6,7,17–19 and muscle fibres16,20. We report here that the lectin from the legume Dolichos biflorus, DBA, selectively stains neuromuscular junctions in several vertebrate species. This result demonstrates the existence of a synapse-specific carbohydrate.

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Sanes, J., Cheney, J. Lectin binding reveals a synapse-specific carbohydrate in skeletal muscle. Nature 300, 646–647 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1038/300646a0

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