The basement membrane of skeletal muscle fibers is believed to persist unchanged during myofiber degeneration and act as a tubular structure within which the regeneration of new myofibers occurs. In the present study we describe macromolecular changes in the basement membrane zone during muscle degeneration and regeneration, as monitored by immunofluorescence using specific antibodies against types IV and V collagen, laminin, and heparan sulfate proteoglycan and by the binding of concanavalin A (Con A). Skeletal muscle regeneration was induced by autotransplantation of the extensor digitorum longus muscle in rats. After this procedure, the myofibers degenerate; this is followed by myosatellite cell activation, proliferation, and fusion, resulting in the formation of new myotubes that mature into myofibers. In normal muscle, the distribution of types IV and V collagen, laminin, heparan sulfate proteoglycan, and Con A binding was seen in the pericellular basement membrane region. In autotransplanted muscle, the various components of the basement membrane zone disappeared, leaving behind some unidentifiable component that still bound Con A. Around the regenerated myotubes a new basement membrane (zone) reappeared, which persisted during maturation of the regenerating muscle. The distribution of various basement membrane components in the regenerated myofibers was similar to that seen in the normal muscle. Based on our present and previous study (Gulati, A.K., A.H. Reddi, and A.A. Zalewski, 1982, Anat. Rec. 204:175-183), it appears that some of the original basement membrane zone components disappear during myofiber degeneration and initial regeneration. As a new basement membrane develops, its components reappear and persist in the mature myofibers. We conclude that skeletal muscle fiber basement membrane (zone) is not a static structure as previously thought, but rather that its components change quite rapidly during myofiber degeneration and regeneration.

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