The LIM domain defines a zinc-binding motif found in a growing number of eukaryotic proteins that regulate cell growth and differentiation during development. Members of the cysteine-rich protein (CRP) family of LIM proteins have been implicated in muscle differentiation in vertebrates. Here we report the identification and characterization of cDNA clones encoding two members of the CRP family in Drosophila, referred to as muscle LIM proteins (Mlp). Mlp60A encodes a protein with a single LIM domain linked to a glycine-rich region. Mlp84B encodes a protein with five tandem LIM-glycine modules. In the embryo, Mlp gene expression is spatially restricted to somatic, visceral, and pharyngeal muscles. Within the somatic musculature, Mlp84B transcripts are enriched at the terminal ends of muscle fibers, whereas Mlp60A transcripts are found throughout the muscle fibers. The distributions of the Mlp60A and Mlp84B proteins mirror their respective mRNA localizations, with Mlp84B enrichment occurring at sites of muscle attachment. Northern blot analysis revealed that Mlp gene expression is developmentally regulated, showing a biphasic pattern over the course of the Drosophila life cycle. Peaks of expression occur late in embryogenesis and during metamorphosis, when the musculature is differentiating. Drosophila Mlp60A and Mlp84B, like vertebrate members of the CRP family, have the ability to associate with the actin cytoskeleton when expressed in rat fibroblast cells. The temporal expression and spatial distribution of muscle LIM proteins in Drosophila are consistent with a role for Mlps in myogenesis, late in the differentiation pathway.

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