We investigated the effect of trifluoperazine (TFP), a calmodulin antagonist, on the fusion of chick skeletal myoblasts in culture. TFP was found to inhibit myoblast fusion. This effect occurs at concentrations that have been reported to inhibit Ca2+-calmodulin in vitro, and is reversed upon removal of TFP. In addition, other calmodulin antagonists, including chlorpromazine, N-(6-aminohexyl)-5-chloro-1-naphthalene-sulfonamide (W7), and N-(6-aminohexyl)-1-naphthalene-sulfonamide (W5), inhibit fusion at doses that correspond closely to the antagonistic effects of these drugs on calmodulin. The expression of surface acetylcholine receptor, a characteristic aspect of muscle differentiation, is not impaired in TFP-arrested myoblasts. Myoblasts inhibited from fusion by 10 microM TFP display impaired alignment. In the presence of the Ca2+ ionophore A23187, the fusion block by 10 microM TFP is partially reversed and myoblast alignment is restored. The presence and distribution of calmodulin in both prefusional myoblasts and fused muscle cells was established by immunofluorescence. We observed an apparent redistribution of calmodulin staining that is temporally correlated with the onset of myoblast fusion. Our findings suggest a possible role for calmodulin in the regulation of myoblast fusion.

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