The M band of vertebrate cross-striated myofibrils has remained an enigmatic structure. In addition to myosin thick filaments, two major structural proteins, myomesin and M-protein, have been localized to the M band. Also, titin is expected to be anchored in this structure. To begin to understand the molecular layout of these three proteins, a panel of 16 polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies directed against unique epitopes of defined sequence was assembled, and immunoelectron microscopy was used to locate the position of the epitopes at the sarcomere level. The results allow the localization and orientation of defined domains of titin, myomesin, and M-protein at high resolution. The 250-kD carboxy-terminal region of titin clearly enters the M band with the kinase domain situated approximately 52 nm from the central M1-line. The positions of three additional epitopes are compatible with the view that the titin molecule reaches approximately 60 nm into the opposite sarcomere half. Myomesin also seems to bridge the central M1-line and is oriented parallel to the long axis of the myofibril. The neighboring molecules are oriented in an antiparallel and staggered fashion. The amino-terminal portion of the protein, known to contain a myosin binding site, seems to adopt a specific three-dimensional arrangement. While myomesin is present in both slow and fast fibers, M-protein is restricted to fast fibers. It appears to be organized in a fundamentally different manner: the central portion of the polypeptide is around the M1-line, while the terminal epitopes seem to be arranged along thick filaments. This orientation fits the conspicuously stronger M1-lines in fast twitch fibers. Obvious implications of this model are discussed.

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