Caldesmon is present in a high molecular mass form in smooth muscle and predominantly in a low molecular mass form in nonmuscle cells. Their biochemical properties are very similar. To examine whether these two forms of caldesmon behave differently in cultured cells, we microinjected fluorescently labeled smooth muscle and nonmuscle caldesmons into fibroblasts. Simultaneous injection of both caldesmons into the same cells has revealed that both high and low relative molecular mass caldesmons are quickly (within 10 min) and stably (over 3 d) incorporated into the same structures of microfilaments including stress fibers and membrane ruffles, suggesting that nonmuscle cells do not distinguish nonmuscle caldesmon from smooth muscle caldesmon. The effect of calmodulin on the incorporation of caldesmon has been examined by coinjection of caldesmon with calmodulin. We have found that calmodulin retards the incorporation of caldesmon into stress fibers for a short period (10 min) but not for a longer incubation (30 min). The behavior of caldesmon in developing muscle cells was also examined because we previously observed that caldesmon disappears during myogenesis (Yamashiro, S., R. Ishikawa, and F. Matsumura. 1988. Protoplasma Suppl. 2: 9-21). We have found that, in contrast to its stable incorporation into stress fibers of fibroblasts, caldesmon is unable to be incorporated into thin filament structure (I-band) of differentiated muscle.

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