Antibodies against chicken erythrocyte vimentin and gizzard desmin were affinity purified and then cross-absorbed with the heterologous antigen. They were used to study the in vivo distributions of these proteins in developing and mature myotubes by immunofluorescence microscopy of 0.5-2-micron frozen sections of iliotibialis muscle in 7-21-day chick embryos, neonatal and 1-d postnatal chicks, and adult chickens. The distributions of vimentin and desmin were coincidental throughout the development of myotubes, but the concentration of vimentin was gradually reduced as the myotubes matured and became largely undetectable at the time of hatching. The process of confining these proteins to the level of Z line from the initial uniform distribution occurred subsequent to the process of bringing myofibrils into lateral registry: in-register lateral association of several myofibrils was occasionally seen as early as in 7-11-d embryos, whereas the cross-striated immunofluorescence pattern of desmin and vimentin was only vaguely discerned in myotubes of 17-d embryos, just 4 d before hatching. In some myotubes of 21-d embryos, myofibrils were in lateral registry as precisely as in adult myofibers but desmin was still widely distributed around Z line in an irregular manner. Nevertheless, in many other myotubes of prenatal or neonatal chicks, desmin became confined to the level of Z line in a manner similar to that seen in adult myofibers, thus essentially completing its redistribution to the confined state of adult myofibers in coincidence with the time of hatching. In extracts from iliotibialis and posterior latissimus dorsi muscles of adult chickens, we detected a hitherto unidentified protein that was very similar to vimentin in molecular weight but did not react with our antivimentin antibody. We discuss the possibility that this protein was confused with vimentin in the past.

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