The tissue specificity of chicken 165,000 M-protein, tentatively names "myomesin", a tightly bound component of the M-line region of adult skeletal and heart myofibrils, was investigated by immunological techniques. Besides skeletal and heart muscle, only thymus (known to contain myogenic cells) was found to contain myomesin. No myomesin could however, be detected in smooth muscle or any other tissue tested. This result was confirmed in vitro on several cultured embryonic cell types. Only skeletal and heart muscle cells, but not smooth muscle or fibroblast cells, showed the presence of myomesin. When the occurrence and the distribution of myomesin during differentiation of breast muscle cells in culture were studied by the indirect immunofluorescence technique, this protein was first detected in postmitotic, nonproliferating myoblasts in a regular pattern of fluorescent cross-striations. In electron micrographs of sections through young myotubes, it could be shown to be present within the forming H-zones of nascent myofibrils. In large myotubes the typical striation pattern in the M-line region of the myofibrils was observed. Synthesis of myomesin measured by incorporation of [35S]methionine into immunoprecipitable protein of differentiating cells increased sharply after approximately 48 h in culture, i.e., at the time when the major myofibrillar proteins are accumulated. No significant amounts of myomesin were, however, found in cells prevented from undergoing normal myogenesis by 5'-bromodeoxyuridine. The results indicate that myomesin (a) is a myofibrillar protein specific for cross-striated muscle, (b) represents a highly specific marker for cross-striated muscle cell differentiation and (c) might play an important role in myofibril assembly and/or maintenance.

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