The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contains two major groups of muscle cells that exhibit organized sarcomeres: the body wall and pharyngeal muscles. Several additional groups of muscle cells of more limited mass and spatial distribution include the vulval muscles of hermaphrodites, the male sex muscles, the anal-intestinal muscles, and the gonadal sheath of the hermaphrodite. These muscle groups do not exhibit sarcomeres and therefore may be considered smooth. Each muscle cell has been shown to have a specific origin in embryonic cell lineages and differentiation, either embryonically or postembryonically (Sulston, J. E., and H. R. Horvitz. 1977. Dev. Biol. 56:110-156; Sulston, J. E., E. Schierenberg, J. White, and J. N. Thomson. 1983. Dev. Biol. 100:64-119). Each muscle type exhibits a unique combination of lineage and onset of differentiation at the cellular level. Biochemically characterized monoclonal antibodies to myosin heavy chains A, B, C, and D and to paramyosin have been used in immunochemical localization experiments. Paramyosin is detected by immunofluorescence in all muscle cells. Myosin heavy chains C and D are limited to the pharyngeal muscle cells, whereas myosin heavy chains A and B are localized not only within the sarcomeres of body wall muscle cells, as reported previously, but to the smooth muscle cells of the minor groups as well. Myosin heavy chains A and B and paramyosin proteins appear to be compatible with functionally and structurally distinct muscle cell types that arise by multiple developmental pathways.

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