Duchenne's muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by the absence or drastic decrease of the structural protein, dystrophin, and is characterized by sarcolemmal lesions in skeletal muscle due to the stress of contraction. Dystrophin has been localized to the sarcolemma, but its organization there is not known. We report immunofluorescence studies which show that dystrophin is concentrated, along with the major muscle isoform of beta-spectrin, in three distinct domains at the sarcolemma: in elements overlying both I bands and M lines, and in occasional strands running along the longitudinal axis of the myofiber. Vinculin, which has previously been found at the sarcolemma overlying the I bands and in longitudinal strands, was present in the same three structures as spectrin and dystrophin. Controls demonstrated that the labeling was intracellular. Comparison to labeling of the lipid bilayer and of the extracellular matrix showed that the labeling for spectrin and dystrophin is associated with the intact sarcolemma and is not a result of processing artifacts. Dystrophin is not required for this lattice-like organization, as similar domains containing spectrin but not dystrophin are present in muscle from the mdx mouse and from humans with Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. We discuss the possibility that dystrophin and spectrin, along with vinculin, may function to link the contractile apparatus to the sarcolemma of normal skeletal muscle.

This content is only available as a PDF.