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Newly discovered protein may be key to muscular dystrophy

riations in a previously unidentified gene. The team cloned this gene, snf-6, and found that its sequence was similar to genes in a family of mammalian neurotransmitter transporters. Because analysis of mutants indicated defects in acetylcholine activity, they tested whether the expressed protein, SNF-6, transports acetylcholine in mammalian cells grown in culture. They found that it is indeed an acetylcholine transporter.

The team used fluorescence techniques to determine that the distribution of SNF-6 was altered in DGC mutants. They found that the DGC, imbedded in the muscle cell membrane, maintains the neurotransmitter transporter at the neuromuscular synapse. In this location, the transporter is available to clear excess acetylcholine.

Further studies confirmed that when acetylcholine transporter function is disrupted, whether by defects in the DGC protein complex that maintains the transporter, or by genetic defects in the transporter itself, the result is muscle degeneration typical of muscular dystrophy.

"We hope that these findings will ultimately lead to an effective treatment for common forms of muscular dystrophy," McIntire said.


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Contact: Wallace Ravven
wravven@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
18-Aug-2004


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