The extracellular matrix surrounding the neuromuscular junction is a highly specialized and dynamic structure. Matrix Metalloproteinases are enzymes that sculpt the extracellular matrix. Since synaptic activity is critical to the structure and function of this synapse, we investigated whether changes in synaptic activity levels could alter the activity of Matrix Metalloproteinases at the neuromuscular junction. In particular, we focused on Matrix Metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3), since antibodies to MMP3 recognize molecules at the frog neuromuscular junction, and MMP3 cleaves a number of synaptic basal lamina molecules, including agrin. Here we show that the fluorogenic compound (M2300) can be used to perform in vivo proteolytic imaging of the frog neuromuscular junction to directly measure the activity state of MMP3. Application of this compound reveals that active MMP3 is concentrated at the normal frog neuromuscular junction, and is tightly associated with the terminal Schwann cell. Blocking presynaptic activity via denervation, or TTX nerve blockade, results in a decreased level of active MMP3 at the neuromuscular junction. The loss of active MMP3 at the neuromuscular junction in denervated muscles can result from decreased activation of pro-MMP3, or it could result from increased inhibition of MMP3. These results support the hypothesis that changes in synaptic activity can alter the level of active MMP3 at the neuromuscular junction.
(c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.