Mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans gene unc-89 result in nematodes having disorganized muscle structure in which thick filaments are not organized into A-bands, and there are no M-lines. Beginning with a partial cDNA from the C. elegans sequencing project, we have cloned and sequenced the unc-89 gene. An unc-89 allele, st515, was found to contain an 84-bp deletion and a 10-bp duplication, resulting in an in-frame stop codon within predicted unc-89 coding sequence. Analysis of the complete coding sequence for unc-89 predicts a novel 6,632 amino acid polypeptide consisting of sequence motifs which have been implicated in protein-protein interactions. UNC-89 begins with 67 residues of unique sequences, SH3, dbl/CDC24, and PH domains, 7 immunoglobulins (Ig) domains, a putative KSP-containing multiphosphorylation domain, and ends with 46 Ig domains. A polyclonal antiserum raised to a portion of unc-89 encoded sequence reacts to a twitchin-sized polypeptide from wild type, but truncated polypeptides from st515 and from the amber allele e2338. By immunofluorescent microscopy, this antiserum localizes to the middle of A-bands, consistent with UNC-89 being a structural component of the M-line. Previous studies indicate that myofilament lattice assembly begins with positional cues laid down in the basement membrane and muscle cell membrane. We propose that the intracellular protein UNC-89 responds to these signals, localizes, and then participates in assembling an M-line.

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