C. Elegans has four muscle quadrants that are used for locomotion. Contraction is converted to locomotion because muscle cells are anchored to the cuticle (the outer covering of the worm) by a specialized basement membrane and hemidesmosome structures in the hypodermis (a cellular syncytium that covers the worm and secretes the cuticle). To study muscle assembly, we have used antibodies to determine the spatial and temporal distribution of muscle and attachment structure components in wild-type and mutant C. elegans embryos. Myofibrillar components are first observed diffusely distributed in the muscle cells, and are expressed in some dividing cells. Later, the components accumulate at the membrane adjacent to the hypodermis where the sarcomeres will form, showing that the cells have become polarized. Assembly of muscle attachment structures is spatially and temporally coordinated with muscle assembly suggesting that important developmental signals may be passed between muscle and hypodermal cells. Analysis of embryos homozygous for mutations that affect muscle assembly show that muscle components closer to the membrane than the affected protein assemble quite well, while those further from the membrane do not. Our results suggest a model where lattice assembly is initiated at the membrane and the spatial organization of the structural elements of the muscle is dictated by membrane proximal events, not by the filament components themselves.

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