Electrical stimulation enhances the acetylcholine receptors available for neuromuscular junction formation
Neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) are specialized synapses that link motor neurons with muscle fibers. These sites are fundamental to human muscle activity, controlling swallowing and breathing amongst many other vital functions. Study of this synapse formation is an essential area in neuroscience; the understanding of how neurons interact and control their targets during development and regeneration are fundamental questions. Existing data reveals that during initial stages of development neurons target and form synapses driven by biophysical and biochemical cues, and during later stages they require electrical activity to develop their functional interactions. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of exogenous electrical stimulation (ES) electrodes directly in contact with cells, on the number and size of acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clusters available for NMJ formation. We used a novel in vitro model that utilizes a flexible electrical stimulation system and allows the systematic testing of several stimulation parameters simultaneously as well as the use of alternative electrode materials such as conductive polymers to deliver the stimulation. Functionality of NMJs under our co-culture conditions was demonstrated by monitoring changes in the responses of primary myoblasts to chemical stimulants that specifically target neuronal signaling. Our results suggest that biphasic electrical stimulation at 250 Hz, 100 ¿s pulse width and current density of 1 mA/cm2 for 8 h, applied via either gold-coated mylar or the conductive polymer PPy, significantly increased the number and size of AChRs clusters available for NMJ formation. This study supports the beneficial use of direct electrical stimulation as a strategic therapy for neuromuscular disorders.