Myofiber growth and myofibril assembly at the myotendinous junction (MTJ) of stretch-hypertrophied rabbit skeletal muscle was studied by in situ hybridization, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy. In situ hybridization identified higher levels of myosin heavy chain (MHC) mRNA at the MTJ of fibers stretched for 4 d. Electron microscopy at the MTJ of these lengthening fibers revealed a large cytoplasmic space devoid of myofibrils, but containing polysomes, sarcoplasmic reticulum and T-membranes, mitochondria, Golgi complexes, and nascent filament assemblies. Tallies from electron micrographs indicate that myofibril assembly in stretched fibers followed a set sequence of events. (a) In stretched fiber ends almost the entire sarcolemmal membrane was electron dense but only a portion had attached myofibrils. Vinculin, detected by immunofluorescence, was greatly increased at the MTJ membrane of stretched muscles. (b) Thin filaments were anchored to the sarcolemma at the electron dense sites. (c) Thick filaments associated with these thin filaments in an unregistered manner. (d) Z-bodies splice into thin filaments and subsequently thin and thick filaments fall into sarcomeric register. Thus, the MTJ is a site of mRNA accumulation which sets up regional protein synthesis and myofibril assembly. Stretched muscles also lengthen by the addition of myotubes at their ends. After 6 d of stretch these myotubes make up the majority of fibers at the muscle ends. Essentially all these myotubes repeat the developmental program of primary myotubes and express slow MHC. MHC mRNA distribution in myotubes is disorganized as is the distribution of their myofibrils.

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