A serum factor from patients with myasthenia gravis which inhibited the binding of 125I-labeled α-bungarotoxin to acetylcholine receptor extracted with Triton X100 from rat muscle has been studied in detail. The inhibitory activity was localized to the IgG fraction based upon the fractionations by sodium sulfate precipitation and DEAE chromatography as well as reaction with anti-IgG globulin. The myasthenic globulin inhibited toxin binding to receptors extracted from degenerated muscle but did not inhibit toxin binding to normal junctional receptors. At saturation levels of myasthenic globulin, the number of denervated acetylcholine receptors available for toxin binding was reduced approx. 50%. The myastehnic globulin was found to bind to denervated acetylcholine receptors but not to normal acetylcholine receptors by a radioimmunoassay technique in which myasthenic globulin incubated with 125I-labeled α-bungarotoxin-receptor complexes was precipitated by anti-IgG serum. The globulin binding was saturable over the same range as inhibition of toxin binding. The data suggest that the myasthenic IgC binds to a site on the receptor complex juxtaposed to the acetylcholine receptor site. The myasthenic globulin appears to be a useful probe for investigating differences between acetylcholine receptors extracted from normal and denervated muscle and for investigating the pathogenesis of myasthenia gravis.
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