An extensive network of transverse and longitudinal filamentous bridges was revealed when small myofibril bundles, prepared from Triton-EGTA-treated rabbit skeletal muscles, were extracted with Kl to remove the majority of thin and thick filaments. Transmission and scanning electron microscopic studies of these salt-resistant cytoskeletal residues indicated (a) small bundles of short transverse filaments connect adjacent myofibrils by forming Z to Z and M to M bridges; (b) parallel, continuous longitudinal filaments connect the peripheries of successive Z-disks and ensheath the sarcomere. These transverse and longitudinal filaments have the characteristic morphology of intermediate filaments; (c) two rings of tightly interwoven and tangled filaments, connected laterally by short filaments, encircle each Z disk. This double-ring also encircles a weblike meshwork which penetrates the sarcomeric space. From the peripheries of these rings, transverse and longitudinal intermediate filaments emerge; and (d) a massive amount of material translocated and accumulated near Z disks during Kl extraction. The residues were fairly resistant to solubilization by urea and SDS, and complete dissolution was achieved only with guanidinium chloride. SDS PAGE indicated that the residues consisted mainly of titin, nebulin, and variable amounts of residual myosin and actin. Desmin represented only a few percent of total residual proteins; however, it may be a major component of the intermediate filament network. We suggest that the intermediate filament should be considered an integral sarcomeric component that may play important cytoskeletal roles in muscle structure and mechanics.

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