Muscle fibers are maintained in culture in a fully contractile state and are relaxed by the addition of 10(-7) M tetrodotoxin (TTX). This toxin binds to muscle membrane Na+- channels, abolishes spontaneous contractions and causes failure of the fiber to accumulate myosin heavy chains. These effects are reversible on removal of TTX. Synthesis and accumulation kinetics have been obtained for myofibrillar and for cytoplasmic filament proteins in normal, active muscle and in TTX-relaxed muscle fibers in culture. In relaxed fibers the synthesis of most proteins remained normal or slightly elevated. However, the accumulation of all myofibrillar proteins examined was markedly inhibited in TTX-treated cultures, whereas the accumulation of cytoplasmic filament proteins was normal or slightly elevated. Myofibrillar proteins examined were alpha-actin, troponin-C, myosin fast light chain 1, myosin fast light chain 2, alpha, beta-tropomyosins and the phosphorylated forms of tropomyosin and fast light chain 2. Cytoplasmic filament proteins studied were vimentin, alpha, beta-desmin and beta, alpha-actin. We also examined the synthesis and accumulation of six unidentified muscle-specific proteins and nine unidentified nonmuscle-specific proteins. Most of these proteins showed a normal accumulation pattern in TTX-relaxed fibers. We concluded that muscle fibers made inactive by TTX display an increased instability of all myofibrillar proteins while cytoplasmic filament proteins and cytoplasmic proteins in general are relatively unaffected. We suggest that TTX interferes, in a manner as yet unidentified, with assembly and normal stability of myofibrils. Decreased assembly and/or increased instability of myofibrils would lead to increased rates of myofibrillar protein degradation.

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