Androgen receptor immunoreactivity in skeletal muscle: enrichment at the neuromuscular junction

Douglas Ashley Monks, Erin Louise O'Bryant, Cynthia Lee Jordan
Journal of Comparative Neurology 2004 May 17, 473 (1): 59-72
Potential cellular targets of androgen action within skeletal muscle of the rat were determined by comparing the cellular distribution of androgen receptor (AR)-positive nuclei in the highly androgen-responsive levator ani (LA) muscle with that of the relatively androgen-unresponsive extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle. We found that androgen responsiveness correlates with AR expression in muscle fibers and not in fibroblasts. Results indicate that a much higher percentage of myonuclei in the LA are AR(+) than in the EDL (74% vs. 7%), correlating with differences in androgen responsiveness. Both muscles contain an equivalent proportion of AR(+) fibroblasts (approximately 62%). AR(+) nuclei were not observed in terminal Schwann cells in either muscle. These results suggest that ARs within LA muscle fibers mediate the androgen-dependent survival and growth of the LA muscle and its motoneurons. We also observed an unexpected enrichment of AR(+) myonuclei and fibroblasts proximate to neuromuscular junctions, suggesting that ARs at muscle synapses may selectively regulate synapse-specific genes important for the survival and growth of motoneurons. Although castration reduced the proportion of AR(+) fibroblasts in both muscles, the proportion of AR(+) myonuclei was reduced only in the LA. As expected, testosterone treatment prevented these effects of castration but, unexpectedly, increased the proportion of AR(+) myonuclei in the EDL to above normal. These results suggest that how AR expression in skeletal muscle is influenced by androgens depends not only on the particular muscle but on the particular cell type within that muscle.

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