We have identified three sarcolemma-associated antigens, including two antigens that are differentially distributed on skeletal muscle fibers of the fast, fast/slow, and slow types. Monoclonal antibodies were prepared using partially purified membranes of adult chicken skeletal muscles as immunogens and were used to characterize three antigens associated with the sarcolemma of muscle fibers. Immunofluorescence staining of cryosections of adult and embryonic chicken muscles showed that two of the three antigens differed in expression by fibers depending on developmental age and whether the fibers were of the fast, fast/slow, or slow type. Fiber type was assigned by determining the content of fast and slow myosin heavy chain. MSA-55 was expressed equally by fibers of all types. In contrast, MSA-slow and MSA-140 differed in their expression by muscle fibers depending on fiber type. MSA-slow was detected exclusively at the periphery of fast/slow and slow fibers, but was not detected on fast fibers. MSA-140 was detected on all fibers but fast/slow and slow fibers stained more intensely suggesting that these fiber types contain more MSA-140 than fast fibers. These sarcolemma-associated antigens were developmentally regulated in ovo and in vitro. MSA-55 and MSA-140 were detected on all primary muscle fibers by day 8 in ovo of embryonic development, whereas MSA-slow was first detected on muscle fibers just before hatching. Those antigens expressed by fast fibers (MSA-55 and MSA-140) were expressed only after myoblasts differentiated into myotubes, but were not expressed by fibroblasts in cell culture. Each antigen was also detected in one or more nonskeletal muscle cell types: MSA-55 and MSA-slow in cardiac myocytes and smooth muscle of gizzard (but not vascular structures) and MSA-140 in cardiac myocytes and smooth muscle of vascular structures. MSA-55 was identified as an Mr 55,000, nonglycosylated, detergent-soluble protein, and MSA-140 was an Mr 140,000, cell surface protein. The Mr of MSA-slow could not be determined by immunoblotting or immunoprecipitation techniques. These findings indicate that muscle fibers of different physiological function differ in the components associated with the sarcolemma. While the function of these sarcolemma-associated antigens is unknown, their regulated appearance during development in ovo and as myoblasts differentiate in culture suggests that they may be important in the formation, maturation, and function of fast, fast/slow, and slow muscle fibers.

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