Monoclonal antibodies to adult chicken myosin light chains were generated and used to quantitate the types of myosin light-chain (MLC) isoforms expressed during development of the pectoralis major (PM), anterior latissimus dorsi (ALD), and medial adductor (MA) muscles of the chicken. These are muscles which, in the adult, are composed predominantly of fast, slow, and a mixture of fiber types, respectively. Three distinct phases of MLC expression characterized the development of the PM and MA muscles. The first identifiable pase occurred during the period of 5-7 d of incubation in ovo. Extracts of muscles from the pectoral region (which included the presumptive PM muscle) contained only fast MLC isoforms. This period of exclusive fast light-chain synthesis was followed by a phase (8- 12 d of incubation in ovo) in which coexpression of both fast and slow MLC isoforms was apparent in both PM and MA muscles. During the period, the composition of both fast and slow MLC isoforms in the PM and MA muscles was identical. Beginning at day 12 in ovo, the ALD was also subjected to immunochemical analyses. The proportion of fast and slow MLCs in this muscle at day 12 was similar to that present in the other muscles studied. The third development phase of MLC expression began at approximately 12 d of incubation in ovo and encompassed the transition in MLC composition to the isoform patterns incubation in ovo and encompassed the transition in MLC composition to the isoform patterns typical of adult muscle. During this period, the relative proportion of slow MLC rose in both the MA and ALD and fell in the PM. By day 16, the third fast light chain, LC(3f), was apparent in extracts of both the PM and MA. These results show that there is a developmental progression in the expression of MLC in the two avian muscles studied from day 5 in ovo; first, only fast MLCs are accumulated, then both fast and slow MLC isoforms are expressed. Only during the latter third of development in ovo is the final MLC isoform pattern characteristic of a particular muscle type expressed.

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