Microtubules (MTs) have been implicated to function in the change of cell shape and intracellular organization that occurs during myogenesis. However, the mechanism by which MTs are involved in these morphogenetic events is unclear. As a first step in elucidating the role of MTs in myogenesis, we have examined the accumulation and subcellular distribution of posttranslationally modified forms of tubulin in differentiating rat L6 muscle cells, using antibodies specific for tyrosinated (Tyr), detyrosinated (Glu), and acetylated (Ac) tubulin. Both Glu and Ac tubulin are components of stable MTs, whereas Tyr tubulin is the predominant constituent of dynamic MTs. In proliferating L6 myoblasts, as in other types of proliferating cells, the level of Glu tubulin was very low when compared with the level of Tyr tubulin. However, when we shifted proliferating L6 cells to differentiation media, we observed a rapid accumulation of Glu tubulin in cellular MTs. By immunofluorescence, the increase in Glu tubulin was first detected in MTs of prefusion myoblasts and was specifically localized to MTs that were associated with elongating portions of the cell. MTs in the multinucleated myotubes observed at later stages of differentiation maintained the elevated level of Glu tubulin that was observed in the prefusion myoblasts. When cells at early stages of differentiation (less than 1 d after switching the culture medium) were immunostained for Glu tubulin and the muscle-specific marker, muscle myosin, we found that the increase in Glu tubulin preceded the accumulation of muscle myosin. Thus, the elaboration of Glu MTs is one of the very early events in myogenesis. Ac tubulin also increased during L6 myogenesis; however, the increase in acetylation occurred later in myogenesis, after fusion had already occurred. Because detyrosination was temporally correlated with early events of myogenesis, we examined the mechanism responsible for the accumulation of Glu tubulin in the MTs of prefusion myoblasts. We found that an increase in the stability of L6 cell MTs occurred at the onset of differentiation, suggesting that the early increase in detyrosination that we observed is a manifestation of a decrease in MT dynamics in elongating myoblasts. We conclude that the establishment of an oriented array of microtubules heightened in its stability and its level of posttranslationally modified subunits may be involved in the subcellular remodeling that occurs during myogenesis.

This content is only available as a PDF.