We have investigated the molecular bases of muscle abnormalities in four Drosophila melanogaster heldup mutants. We find that the heldup gene encodes troponin-I, one of the principal regulatory proteins associated with skeletal muscle thin filaments. heldup3, heldup4, and heldup5 mutants, all of which have grossly abnormal flight muscle myofibrils, lack mRNAs encoding one or more troponin-I isoforms. In contrast, heldup2, an especially interesting mutant wherein flight muscles are atrophic, synthesizes the complete mRNA complement. By sequencing mutant troponin-I cDNAs we demonstrate that the molecular basis for muscle degeneration in heldup2 is conversion of an invariant alanine residue to valine. We finally show that degeneration of heldup2 thin filament/Z-disc networks can be prevented by eliminating thick filaments from flight muscles using a null allele of the sarcomeric myosin heavy chain gene. This latter observation suggests that actomyosin interactions exacerbate the structural or functional defect resulting from the troponin-I mutation.

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