The fusion of myogenic cells has been examined on the fine-structural level in muscle cell cultures of embryonic Japanese Coturnix quail. Cells, selected by light microscopy, were serially sectioned normal to their long axis. In this plane, oblique sections of cell membranes are rare and plasmalemmal profiles are more easily traced between adjacent cells. In seven cases, pairs of cells, apparently fixed in the process of fusion, are joined by a single cytoplasmic bridge.
Since obliquely sectioned membranes often suggest cytoplasmic confluence, tilting stage analysis was employed to resolve cell membranes in suspect cases. In contrast to such artifacts of superposition, however, the observed intercommunicating pores are contained within a pair of culs-de-sac formed by the fused membranes of both cells. These blind pouches can be traced back between the cells to the external space. The confluent regions are clearly demarcated and they are not simply areas between vesicular profiles.
The results of this analysis suggest that (a) at no time is there any loss of integrity of the cellular envelope, and (b) fusion is most probably initiated at single sites between pairs of cells, the pore enlarging, leaving first vestiges and eventually no trace of the original intervening membranes.