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1.  The AP-1 Transcription Factor c-Jun Prevents Stress-Imposed Maladaptive Remodeling of the Heart 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73294.
Systemic hypertension increases cardiac workload and subsequently induces signaling networks in heart that underlie myocyte growth (hypertrophic response) through expansion of sarcomeres with the aim to increase contractility. However, conditions of increased workload can induce both adaptive and maladaptive growth of heart muscle. Previous studies implicate two members of the AP-1 transcription factor family, junD and fra-1, in regulation of heart growth during hypertrophic response. In this study, we investigate the function of the AP-1 transcription factors, c-jun and c-fos, in heart growth. Using pressure overload-induced cardiac hypertrophy in mice and targeted deletion of Jun or Fos in cardiomyocytes, we show that c-jun is required for adaptive cardiac hypertrophy, while c-fos is dispensable in this context. c-jun promotes expression of sarcomere proteins and suppresses expression of extracellular matrix proteins. Capacity of cardiac muscle to contract depends on organization of principal thick and thin filaments, myosin and actin, within the sarcomere. In line with decreased expression of sarcomere-associated proteins, Jun-deficient cardiomyocytes present disarrangement of filaments in sarcomeres and actin cytoskeleton disorganization. Moreover, Jun-deficient hearts subjected to pressure overload display pronounced fibrosis and increased myocyte apoptosis finally resulting in dilated cardiomyopathy. In conclusion, c-jun but not c-fos is required to induce a transcriptional program aimed at adapting heart growth upon increased workload.
PMCID: PMC3769267  PMID: 24039904
2.  Critical roles for multiple formins during cardiac myofibril development and repair 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(6):811-827.
Seven of 15 different mouse formins localized in diverse patterns to cardiomyocyte sarcomeres. Four were required for proper organization of myofibrils, and two were critical for remodeling and repair of myofibril structure.
Cardiac and skeletal muscle function depends on the proper formation of myofibrils, which are tandem arrays of highly organized actomyosin contractile units called sarcomeres. How the architecture of these colossal molecular assemblages is established during development and maintained over the lifetime of an animal is poorly understood. We investigate the potential roles in myofibril formation and repair of formin proteins, which are encoded by 15 different genes in mammals. Using quantitative real-time PCR analysis, we find that 13 formins are differentially expressed in mouse hearts during postnatal development. Seven formins immunolocalize to sarcomeres in diverse patterns, suggesting that they have a variety of functional roles. Using RNA interference silencing, we find that the formins mDia2, DAAM1, FMNL1, and FMNL2 are required nonredundantly for myofibrillogenesis. Knockdown phenotypes include global loss of myofibril organization and defective sarcomeric ultrastructure. Finally, our analysis reveals an unanticipated requirement specifically for FMNL1 and FMNL2 in the repair of damaged myofibrils. Together our data reveal an unexpectedly large number of formins, with diverse localization patterns and nonredundant roles, functioning in myofibril development and maintenance, and provide the first evidence of actin assembly factors being required to repair myofibrils.
PMCID: PMC3952851  PMID: 24430873
3.  Human cardiomyopathy mutations induce myocyte hyperplasia and activate hypertrophic pathways during cardiogenesis in zebrafish 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2011;4(3):400-410.
To assess the effects during cardiac development of mutations that cause human cardiomyopathy, we modeled a sarcomeric gene mutation in the embryonic zebrafish. We designed morpholino antisense oligonucleotides targeting the exon 13 splice donor site in the zebrafish cardiac troponin T (tnnt2) gene, in order to precisely recapitulate a human TNNT2 mutation that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a disease characterized by myocardial hypertrophy, myocyte and myofibrillar disarray, as well as an increased risk of sudden death. Similar to humans with HCM, the morphant zebrafish embryos displayed sarcomere disarray and there was a robust induction of myocardial hypertrophic pathways. Microarray analysis uncovered a number of shared transcriptional responses between this zebrafish model and a well-characterized mouse model of HCM. However, in contrast to adult hearts, these embryonic hearts developed cardiomyocyte hyperplasia in response to this genetic perturbation. The re-creation of a human disease-causing TNNT2 splice variant demonstrates that sarcomeric mutations can alter cardiomyocyte biology at the earliest stages of heart development with distinct effects from those observed in adult hearts despite shared transcriptional responses.
PMCID: PMC3097461  PMID: 21245263
4.  Early incorporation of obscurin into nascent sarcomeres: implication for myofibril assembly during cardiac myogenesis 
Histochemistry and cell biology  2008;129(4):463-478.
Obscurin is a recently identified giant multidomain muscle protein whose functions remain poorly understood. The goal of this study was to investigate the process of assembly of obscurin into nascent sarcomeres during the transition from non-striated myofibril precursors to striated structure of differentiating myofibrils in cell cultures of neonatal rat cardiac myocytes. Double immunofluorescent labeling and high resolution confocal microscopy demonstrated intense incorporation of obscurin in the areas of transition from non-striated to striated regions on the tips of developing myofibrils and at the sites of lateral fusion of nascent sarcomere bundles. We found that obscurin rapidly and precisely accumulated in the middle of the A-band regions of the terminal newly assembled half-sarcomeres in the zones of transition from the continuous, non-striated pattern of sarcomeric α-actinin distribution to cross-striated structure of laterally expanding nascent Z-discs. The striated pattern of obscurin typically ended at these points. This occurred before the assembly of morphologically differentiated terminal Z-discs of the assembling sarcomeres on the tips of growing myofibrils. The presence of obscurin in the areas of the terminal Z-discs of each new sarcomere was detected at the same time or shortly after complete assembly of sarcomeric structure. Many non-striated fibers with very low concentration of obscurin were already immunopositive for sarcomeric actin and myosin. This suggests that obscurin may serve for organization and alignment of myofilaments into the striated pattern. The comparison of obscurin and titin localization in these areas showed that obscurin assembly into the A-bands occurred soon after or concomitantly with incorporation of titin. Electron microscopy of growing myofibrils demonstrated intense formation and integration of myosin filaments into the “open” half-assembled sarcomeres in the areas of the terminal Z–I structures and at the lateral surfaces of newly formed, terminally located nascent sarcomeres. This process progressed before the assembly of the second-formed, terminal Z-discs of new sarcomeres and before the development of ultrastructurally detectable mature M-lines that define the completion of myofibril assembly, which supports the data of immunocytochemical study. Abundant non-aligned sarcomeres in immature myofibrils located on the growing tips were spatially separated and underwent the transition to the registered, aligned pattern. The sarcoplasmic reticulum, the organelle known to interact with obscurin, assembled around each new sarcomere. These results suggest that obscurin is directly involved in the proper positioning and alignment of myofilaments within nascent sarcomeres and in the establishment of the registered pattern of newly assembled myofibrils and the sarcoplasmic reticulum at advanced stages of myofibrillogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2761667  PMID: 18219491
Cardiac myocytes; Myofibrillogenesis; Myosin; Obscurin; Sarcomere; Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Z-disks
5.  Polygons and adhesion plaques and the disassembly and assembly of myofibrils in cardiac myocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1989;108(6):2355-2367.
Successive stages in the disassembly of myofibrils and the subsequent assembly of new myofibrils have been studied in cultures of dissociated chick cardiac myocytes. The myofibrils in trypsinized and dispersed myocytes are sequentially disassembled during the first 3 d of culture. They split longitudinally and then assemble into transitory polygons. Multiples of single sarcomeres, the cardiac polygons, are analogous to the transitory polygonal configurations assumed by stress fibers in spreading fibroblasts. They differ from their counterparts in fibroblasts in that they consist of muscle alpha-actinin vertices and muscle myosin heavy chain struts, rather than of the nonmuscle contractile protein isoforms of stress fiber polygons. EM sections reveal the vertices and struts in cardiac polygons to be typical Z and A bands. Most cardiac polygons are eliminated by day 5 of culture. Concurrent with the disassembly and elimination of the original myofibrils new myofibrils are rapidly assembled elsewhere in the same myocyte. Without exception both distal tips of each nascent myofibril terminate in adhesion plaques. The morphology and composition of the adhesion plaques capping each end of each myofibril are similar to those of the termini of stress fibers in fibroblasts. However, whereas the adhesion complexes involving stress fibers in fibroblasts consist of vinculin/nonmuscle alpha-actinin/beta- and gamma-actins, the analogous structures in myocytes involving myofibrils consist of vinculin/muscle alpha-actinin/alpha-actin. The addition of 1.7-2.0 microns sarcomeres to the distal tips of an elongating myofibril, irrespective of whether the myofibril consists of 1, 10, or several hundred tandem sarcomeres, occurs while the myofibril appears to remain linked to its respective adhesion plaques. The adhesion plaques in vitro are the equivalent of the in vivo intercalated discs, both in terms of their molecular composition and with respect to their functioning as initiating sites for the assembly of new sarcomeres. How 1.7-2.0 microns nascent sarcomeres can be added distally during elongation while the tips of the myofibrils remain inserted into submembranous adhesion plaques is unknown.
PMCID: PMC2115580  PMID: 2472405
6.  Scaffolds and chaperones in myofibril assembly: putting the striations in striated muscle 
Biophysical reviews  2011;3(1):25-32.
Sarcomere assembly in striated muscles has long been described as a series of steps leading to assembly of individual proteins into thick filaments, thin filaments and Z-lines. Decades of previous work focused on the order in which various structural proteins adopted the striated organization typical of mature myofibrils. These studies led to the view that actin and α-actinin assemble into premyofibril structures separately from myosin filaments, and that these structures are then assembled into myofibrils with centered myosin filaments and actin filaments anchored at the Z-lines. More recent studies have shown that particular scaffolding proteins and chaperone proteins are required for individual steps in assembly. Here, we review the evidence that N-RAP, a LIM domain and nebulin repeat protein, scaffolds assembly of actin and α-actinin into I-Z-I structures in the first steps of assembly; that the heat shock chaperone proteins Hsp90 & Hsc70 cooperate with UNC-45 to direct the folding of muscle myosin and its assembly into thick filaments; and that the kelch repeat protein Krp1 promotes lateral fusion of premyofibril structures to form mature striated myofibrils. The evidence shows that myofibril assembly is a complex process that requires the action of particular catalysts and scaffolds at individual steps. The scaffolds and chaperones required for assembly are potential regulators of myofibrillogenesis, and abnormal function of these proteins caused by mutation or pathological processes could in principle contribute to diseases of cardiac and skeletal muscles.
PMCID: PMC3110075  PMID: 21666840
Myofibrillogenesis; N-RAP; Krp1; Hsp90; Hsc70; UNC-45
7.  Disruption of a GATA4/Ankrd1 Signaling Axis in Cardiomyocytes Leads to Sarcomere Disarray: Implications for Anthracycline Cardiomyopathy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35743.
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is an effective anti-cancer drug, but its clinical usage is limited by a dose-dependent cardiotoxicity characterized by widespread sarcomere disarray and loss of myofilaments. Cardiac ankyrin repeat protein (CARP, ANKRD1) is a transcriptional regulatory protein that is extremely susceptible to doxorubicin; however, the mechanism(s) of doxorubicin-induced CARP depletion and its specific role in cardiomyocytes have not been completely defined. We report that doxorubicin treatment in cardiomyocytes resulted in inhibition of CARP transcription, depletion of CARP protein levels, inhibition of myofilament gene transcription, and marked sarcomere disarray. Knockdown of CARP with small interfering RNA (siRNA) similarly inhibited myofilament gene transcription and disrupted cardiomyocyte sarcomere structure. Adenoviral overexpression of CARP, however, was unable to rescue the doxorubicin-induced sarcomere disarray phenotype. Doxorubicin also induced depletion of the cardiac transcription factor GATA4 in cardiomyocytes. CARP expression is regulated in part by GATA4, prompting us to examine the relationship between GATA4 and CARP in cardiomyocytes. We show in co-transfection experiments that GATA4 operates upstream of CARP by activating the proximal CARP promoter. GATA4-siRNA knockdown in cardiomyocytes inhibited CARP expression and myofilament gene transcription, and induced extensive sarcomere disarray. Adenoviral overexpression of GATA4 (AdV-GATA4) in cardiomyocytes prior to doxorubicin exposure maintained GATA4 levels, modestly restored CARP levels, and attenuated sarcomere disarray. Interestingly, siRNA-mediated depletion of CARP completely abolished the Adv-GATA4 rescue of the doxorubicin-induced sarcomere phenotype. These data demonstrate co-dependent roles for GATA4 and CARP in regulating sarcomere gene expression and maintaining sarcomeric organization in cardiomyocytes in culture. The data further suggests that concurrent depletion of GATA4 and CARP in cardiomyocytes by doxorubicin contributes in large part to myofibrillar disarray and the overall pathophysiology of anthracycline cardiomyopathy.
PMCID: PMC3332030  PMID: 22532871
8.  The Transitional Junction: A New Functional Subcellular Domain at the Intercalated Disc 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(4):2091-2100.
We define here a previously unrecognized structural element close to the heart muscle plasma membrane at the intercalated disc where the myofibrils lead into the adherens junction. At this location, the plasma membrane is extensively folded. Immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy reveal a spectrin-rich domain at the apex of the folds. These domains occur at the axial level of what would be the final Z-disc of the terminal sarcomere in the myofibril, although there is no Z-disc-like structure there. However, a sharp transitional boundary lies between the myofibrillar I-band and intercalated disc thin filaments, identifiable by the presence of Z-disc proteins, α-actinin, and N-terminal titin. This allows for the usual elastic positioning of the A-band in the final sarcomere, whereas the transduction of the contractile force normally associated with the Z-disc is transferred to the adherens junctions at the plasma membrane. The axial conjunction of the transitional junction with the spectrin-rich domains suggests a mechanism for direct communication between intercalated disc and contractile apparatus. In particular, it provides a means for sarcomeres to be added to the ends of the cells during growth. This is of particular relevance to understanding myocyte elongation in dilated cardiomyopathy.
PMCID: PMC1415289  PMID: 16481394
9.  Patient-Specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell as a Model for Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy 
Science translational medicine  2012;4(130):130ra47.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common cardiomyopathy, characterized by ventricular dilatation, systolic dysfunction, and progressive heart failure. DCM is the most common diagnosis leading to heart transplantation and places a significant burden on healthcare worldwide. The advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) offers an exceptional opportunity for creating disease-specific models, investigating underlying mechanisms, and optimizing therapy. Here we generated cardiomyocytes (CMs) from iPSCs derived from patients of a DCM family carrying a point mutation (R173W) in the gene encoding sarcomeric protein cardiac troponin T. Compared to the control healthy individuals in the same family cohort, DCM iPSC-CMs exhibited altered Ca2+ handling, decreased contractility, and abnormal sarcomeric α-actinin distribution. When stimulated with β-adrenergic agonist, DCM iPSC-CMs showed characteristics of failure such as reduced beating rates, compromised contraction, and significantly more cells with abnormal sarcomeric α-actinin distribution. β-adrenergic blocker treatment and over-expression of sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (Serca2a) improved DCM iPSC-CMs function. Our study demonstrated that human DCM iPSC-CMs recapitulated to some extent the disease phenotypes morphologically and functionally, and thus can serve as a useful platform for exploring molecular and cellular mechanisms and optimizing treatment of this particular disease.
PMCID: PMC3657516  PMID: 22517884
10.  Arginylation regulates myofibrils to maintain heart function and prevent dilated cardiomyopathy 
Protein arginylation mediated by arginyltransferase (ATE1) is essential for heart formation during embryogenesis, however its cell-autonomous role in cardiomyocytes and the differentiated heart muscle has never been investigated. To address this question, we generated cardiac muscle-specific Ate1 knockout mice, in which Ate1 deletion was driven by α-myosin heavy chain promoter (αMHC-Ate1 mouse). These mice were initially viable, but developed severe cardiac contractility defects, dilated cardiomyopathy, and thrombosis over time, resulting in high rates of lethality after 6 months of age. These symptoms were accompanied by severe ultrastructural defects in cardiac myofibrils, seen in the newborns and far preceding the onset of cardiomyopathy, suggesting that these defects were primary and likely underlay the development of the future heart defects. Several major sarcomeric proteins were arginylated in vivo. Moreover, Ate1 deletion in the hearts resulted in a significant reduction of active and passive myofibril forces, suggesting that arginylation is critical for both myofibril structural integrity and contractility. Thus, arginylation is essential for maintaining the heart function by regulation of the major myofibril proteins and myofibril forces, and its absence in the heart muscle leads to progressive heart failure through cardiomyocyte-specific defects.
PMCID: PMC3418387  PMID: 22626847
arginylation; dilated cardyomyopathy; myofibrils
11.  Myofibril Assembly Visualized by Imaging N-RAP, Alpha-Actinin, and Actin in Living Cardiomyocytes 
Experimental cell research  2009;315(12):2126-2139.
N-RAP is a striated muscle-specific scaffolding protein that organizes α-actinin and actin into symetrical I-Z-I structures in developing myofibrils. Here we determined the order of events during myofibril assembly through time-lapse confocal microscopy of cultured embryonic chick cardiomyocytes coexpressing fluorescently tagged N-RAP and either α-actinin or actin. During de novo myofibril assembly, N-RAP assembled in fibrillar structures within the cell, with dots of α-actinin subsequently organizing along these structures. The initial fibrillar structures were reminiscent of actin fibrils, and coassembly of N-RAP and actin into newly formed fibrils supported this. The α-actinin dots subsequently broadened to Z-lines that were wider than the underlying N-RAP fibril, and N-RAP fluorescence intensity decreased. FRAP experiments showed that most of the α-actinin dynamically exchanged during all stages of myofibril assembly. In contrast, less than 20% of the N-RAP in premyofibrils was exchanged during 10-20 minutes after photobleaching, but this value increased to 70% during myofibril maturation. The results show that N-RAP assembles into an actin containing scaffold before α-actinin recruitment; that the N-RAP scaffold is much more stable than the assembling structural components; that N-RAP dynamics increase as assembly progresses; and that N-RAP leaves the structure after assembly is complete.
PMCID: PMC2742992  PMID: 19233165
myofibrillogenesis; heart; sarcomere
12.  Myofibrillogenesis in Skeletal Muscle Cells in Zebrafish 
The “premyofibril” model of myofibrillogenesis, based on observations in cultured avian muscle cells, proposes that mature myofibrils are preceded by two intermediary structures: premyofibrils and nascent myofibrils. To determine if this model applies to zebrafish skeletal muscle development, we stained developing embryos with antibodies to sarcomeric alpha-actinin and myosin II. In the youngest muscle cells, sarcomeric alpha-actinin and non-muscle myosin II were each localized in linear arrays of small bands that resembled the premyofibrils in avian myocytes. The distribution of muscle–specific myosin II began as scattered short filaments followed in time by overlapping bundles of filaments and organized A-bands in the older somites. Alpha-actinin organization changed from small z-bodies to beaded Z-bands and ordered Z-bands in myofibrils that extended the length of the elongating somites. In older somites with mature myofibrils, premyofibrils were also present at the ends of the mature myofibrils, suggesting that as the cells and somites grew longer, premyofibrils were involved in the elongation of existing mature myofibrils. Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching showed that the exchange of proteins (actin, alpha-actinin, FATZ, myotilin and telethonin) between sarcoplasm and the Z-bands of mature myofibrils in zebrafish resembled that seen for the same proteins in cultured avian myotubes, suggesting that myofibril assembly and maintenance in zebrafish share common properties with avian muscle.
PMCID: PMC2750826  PMID: 19382198
Myofibrillogenesis; Myofibril; Alpha-actinin; Myosin; A-bands; Premyofibril; Nascent myofibril; Mature myofibril; Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching; FRAP
13.  Build it up–Tear it down: protein quality control in the cardiac sarcomere 
Cardiovascular Research  2008;81(3):439-448.
The assembly and maintenance of the cardiac sarcomere, which contains the basic contractile components of actin and myosin, are essential for cardiac function. While often described as a static structure, the sarcomere is actually dynamic and undergoes constant turnover, allowing it to adapt to physiological changes while still maintaining function. A host of new factors have been identified that play a role in the regulation of protein quality control in the sarcomere, including chaperones that mediate the assembly of sarcomere components and ubiquitin ligases that control their specific degradation. There is clear evidence of sarcomere disorganization in animal models lacking muscle-specific chaperone proteins, illustrating the importance of these molecules in sarcomere structure and function. Although ubiquitin ligases have been found within the sarcomere structure itself, the role of the ubiquitin proteasome system in cardiac sarcomere regulation, and the factors that control its activity, are only just now being elucidated. The number of ubiquitin ligases identified with specificity for sarcomere proteins, each with distinct target substrates, is growing, allowing for tight regulation of this system. In this review, we highlight the dynamic interplay between sarcomere-specific chaperones and ubiquitin-dependent degradation of sarcomere proteins that is necessary in order to maintain structure and function of the cardiac sarcomere.
PMCID: PMC2721652  PMID: 18974044
Chaperones; Ubiquitin; Proteasome; Ubiquitin ligase; Muscle ring finger; Atrogin-1; MAFbx; C-terminal of Hsp70 interacting protein; MDM2; GimC; TriC; αB-crystallin; UPD-2; UNC-45; Protein quality control
14.  Prospero-related homeobox 1 (Prox1) functions as a novel modulator of retinoic acid-related orphan receptors α- and γ-mediated transactivation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(14):6992-7008.
In this study, we identify Prospero-related homeobox 1 (Prox1) as a novel co-repressor of the retinoic acid-related orphan receptors, RORα and RORγ. Prox1 interacts directly with RORγ and RORα and negatively regulates their transcriptional activity. The AF2 domain of RORs is essential for the interaction, whereas Prox1 interacts with RORs through either its 28 amino acids N-terminal region or its C-terminal prospero-like domain. RORγ antagonists stabilize the interaction between RORγ and Prox1. The homeodomain and the interaction through the prospero-like domain of Prox1 are critical for its repression of ROR transcriptional activity. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis demonstrated that in liver, Prox1 is recruited to the ROR response element sites of the clock genes, brain and muscle Arnt-like protein 1 (Bmal1), neuronal PAS domain protein 2 (Npas2) and cryptochrome 1 (Cry1), as part of the same complex as RORs. Knockdown of Prox1 by siRNAs in human hepatoma Huh-7 cells increased the expression of RORγ and several ROR-target genes, along with increased histone acetylation at these ROR response element sites. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing analysis suggests that Prox1 is a potential ROR target gene in liver, which is supported by the regulation of the rhythmic expression of Prox1 by RORγ. Our data suggest that Prox1 is part of a feedback loop that negatively regulates the transcriptional control of clock and metabolic networks by RORs.
PMCID: PMC3737549  PMID: 23723244
15.  Myofibrillogenesis in living cells microinjected with fluorescently labeled alpha-actinin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1986;102(6):2053-2066.
Fluorescently labeled alpha-actinin, isolated from chicken gizzards, breast muscle, or calf brains, was microinjected into cultured embryonic myotubes and cardiac myocytes where it was incorporated into the Z-bands of myofibrils. The localization in injected, living cells was confirmed by reacting permeabilized myotubes and cardiac myocytes with fluorescent alpha-actinin. Both living and permeabilized cells incorporated the alpha-actinin regardless of whether the alpha-actinin was isolated from nonmuscle, skeletal, or smooth muscle, or whether it was labeled with different fluorescent dyes. The living muscle cells could beat up to 5 d after injection. Rest-length sarcomeres in beating myotubes and cardiac myocytes were approximately 1.9-2.4 microns long, as measured by the separation of fluorescent bands of alpha-actinin. There were areas in nearly all beating cells, however, where narrow bands of alpha-actinin, spaced 0.3-1.5 micron apart, were arranged in linear arrays giving the appearance of minisarcomeres. In myotubes, alpha-actinin was found exclusively in these closely spaced arrays for the first 2-3 d in culture. When the myotubes became contraction- competent, at approximately day 4 to day 5 in culture, alpha-actinin was localized in Z-bands of fully formed sarcomeres, as well as in minisarcomeres. Video recordings of injected, spontaneously beating myotubes showed contracting myofibrils with 2.3 microns sarcomeres adjacent to noncontracting fibers with finely spaced periodicities of alpha-actinin. Time sequences of the same living myotube over a 24-h period revealed that the spacings between the minisarcomeres increased from 0.9-1.3 to 1.6-2.3 microns. Embryonic cardiac myocytes usually contained contractile networks of fully formed sarcomeres together with noncontractile minisarcomeres in peripheral areas of the cytoplasm. In some cells, individual myofibrils with 1.9-2.3 microns sarcomeres were connected in series with minisarcomeres. Double labeling of cardiac myocytes and myotubes with alpha-actinin and a monoclonal antibody directed against adult chicken skeletal myosin showed that all fibers that contained alpha-actinin also contained skeletal muscle myosin. This was true whether alpha-actinin was present in Z-bands of fully formed sarcomeres or present in the closely spaced beads of minisarcomeres. We propose that the closely spaced beads containing alpha-actinin are nascent Z-bands that grow apart and associate laterally with neighboring arrays containing alpha-actinin to form sarcomeres during myofibrillogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2114264  PMID: 2423530
16.  A cardiac myosin light chain kinase regulates sarcomere assembly in the vertebrate heart 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(10):2812-2824.
Marked sarcomere disorganization is a well-documented characteristic of cardiomyocytes in the failing human myocardium. Myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v), which is involved in the development of human cardiomyopathy, is an important structural protein that affects physiologic cardiac sarcomere formation and heart development. Integrated cDNA expression analysis of failing human myocardia uncovered a novel protein kinase, cardiac-specific myosin light chain kinase (cardiac-MLCK), which acts on MLC2v. Expression levels of cardiac-MLCK were well correlated with the pulmonary arterial pressure of patients with heart failure. In cultured cardiomyocytes, knockdown of cardiac-MLCK by specific siRNAs decreased MLC2v phosphorylation and impaired epinephrine-induced activation of sarcomere reassembly. To further clarify the physiologic roles of cardiac-MLCK in vivo, we cloned the zebrafish ortholog z–cardiac-MLCK. Knockdown of z–cardiac-MLCK expression using morpholino antisense oligonucleotides resulted in dilated cardiac ventricles and immature sarcomere structures. These results suggest a significant role for cardiac-MLCK in cardiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1978424  PMID: 17885681
17.  Krp1 (Sarcosin) Promotes Lateral Fusion of Myofibril Assembly Intermediates in Cultured Mouse Cardiomyocytes 
Experimental cell research  2008;314(5):1177-1191.
Krp1, also called sarcosin, is a cardiac and skeletal muscle kelch-repeat protein hypothesized to promote the assembly of myofibrils, the contractile organelles of striated muscles, through interaction with N-RAP and actin. To elucidate its role, endogenous Krp1 was studied in primary embryonic mouse cardiomyocytes. While immunofluorescence showed punctate Krp1 distribution throughout the cell, detergent extraction revealed a significant pool of Krp1 associated with cytoskeletal elements. Reduction of Krp1 expression with siRNA resulted in specific inhibition of myofibril accumulation with no effect on cell spreading. Immunostaining analysis and electron microscopy revealed that cardiomyocytes lacking Krp1 contained sarcomeric proteins with longitudinal periodicities similar to mature myofibrils, but fibrils remained thin and separated. These thin myofibrils were degraded by a scission mechanism distinct from the myofibril disassembly pathway observed during cell division in the developing heart. The data are consistent with a model in which Krp1 promotes lateral fusion of adjacent thin fibrils into mature, wide myofibrils and contribute insight into mechanisms of myofibrillogenesis and disassembly.
PMCID: PMC2275804  PMID: 18178185
kelch; heart; myofibrillogenesis; α-actinin; actin; myosin
18.  Dilated cardiomyopathy in homozygous myosin-binding protein-C mutant mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(9):1235-1244.
To elucidate the role of cardiac myosin-binding protein-C (MyBP-C) in myocardial structure and function, we have produced mice expressing altered forms of this sarcomere protein. The engineered mutations encode truncated forms of MyBP-C in which the cardiac myosin heavy chain-binding and titin-binding domain has been replaced with novel amino acid residues. Analogous heterozygous defects in humans cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Mice that are homozygous for the mutated MyBP-C alleles express less than 10% of truncated protein in M-bands of otherwise normal sarcomeres. Homozygous mice bearing mutated MyBP-C alleles are viable but exhibit neonatal onset of a progressive dilated cardiomyopathy with prominent histopathology of myocyte hypertrophy, myofibrillar disarray, fibrosis, and dystrophic calcification. Echocardiography of homozygous mutant mice showed left ventricular dilation and reduced contractile function at birth; myocardial hypertrophy increased as the animals matured. Left-ventricular pressure-volume analyses in adult homozygous mutant mice demonstrated depressed systolic contractility with diastolic dysfunction. These data revise our understanding of the role that MyBP-C plays in myofibrillogenesis during cardiac development and indicate the importance of this protein for long-term sarcomere function and normal cardiac morphology. We also propose that mice bearing homozygous familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy–causing mutations may provide useful tools for predicting the severity of disease that these mutations will cause in humans.
PMCID: PMC409819  PMID: 10545522
19.  Analysis of myofibrillar structure and assembly using fluorescently labeled contractile proteins 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1984;98(3):825-833.
To study how contractile proteins become organized into sarcomeric units in striated muscle, we have exposed glycerinated myofibrils to fluorescently labeled actin, alpha-actinin, and tropomyosin. In this in vitro system, alpha-actinin bound to the Z-bands and the binding could not be saturated by prior addition of excess unlabeled alpha-actinin. Conditions known to prevent self-association of alpha-actinin, however, blocked the binding of fluorescently labeled alpha-actinin to Z-bands. When tropomyosin was removed from the myofibrils, alpha-actinin then added to the thin filaments as well as the Z-bands. Actin bound in a doublet pattern to the regions of the myosin filaments where there were free cross-bridges i.e., in that part of the A-band free of interdigitating native thin filaments but not in the center of the A- band which lacks cross-bridges. In the presence of 0.1-0.2 mM ATP, no actin binding occurred. When unlabeled alpha-actinin was added first to myofibrils and then labeled actin was added fluorescence occurred not in a doublet pattern but along the entire length of the myofibril. Tropomyosin did not bind to myofibrils unless the existing tropomyosin was first removed, in which case it added to the thin filaments in the l-band. Tropomyosin did bind, however, to the exogenously added tropomyosin-free actin that localizes as a doublet in the A-band. These results indicate that the alpha-actinin present in Z-bands of myofibrils is fully complexed with actin, but can bind exogenous alpha- actinin and, if actin is added subsequently, the exogenous alpha- actinin in the Z-band will bind the newly formed fluorescent actin filaments. Myofibrillar actin filaments did not increase in length when G-actin was present under polymerizing conditions, nor did they bind any added tropomyosin. These observations are discussed in terms of the structure and in vivo assembly of myofibrils.
PMCID: PMC2113144  PMID: 6699087
20.  SMN complex localizes to the sarcomeric Z-disc and is a proteolytic target of calpain 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(21):3399-3410.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a recessive neuromuscular disease caused by mutations in the human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. The human SMN protein is part of a large macromolecular complex involved in the biogenesis of small ribonucleoproteins. Previously, we showed that SMN is a sarcomeric protein in flies and mice. In this report, we show that the entire mouse Smn complex localizes to the sarcomeric Z-disc. Smn colocalizes with α-actinin, a Z-disc marker protein, in both skeletal and cardiac myofibrils. Furthermore, this localization is both calcium- and calpain-dependent. Calpains are known to release proteins from various regions of the sarcomere as a part of the normal functioning of the muscle; however, this removal can be either direct or indirect. Using mammalian cell lysates, purified native SMN complexes, as well as recombinant SMN protein, we show that SMN is a direct target of calpain cleavage. Finally, myofibers from a mouse model of severe SMA, but not controls, display morphological defects that are consistent with a Z-disc deficiency. These results support the view that the SMN complex performs a muscle-specific function at the Z-discs.
PMCID: PMC2566527  PMID: 18689355
21.  Myosin filament assembly onto myofibrils in live neonatal cardiomyocytes observed by TPEF-SHG microscopy 
Cardiovascular Research  2012;97(2):262-270.
Understanding myofibrillogenesis is essential for elucidating heart muscle formation, development, and remodelling in response to physiological stimulation. Here, we report the dynamic assembly process of contractile myosin filaments onto myofibrils in a live cardiomyocyte culture during myofibrillogenesis.
Methods and results
Utilizing a custom-built, two-photon excitation fluorescence and second harmonic generation imaging system equipped with an on-stage incubator, we observed new sarcomere additions in rat neonatal cardiomyocytes during 10 h of on-stage incubation. The new sarcomere additions occurred at the side of existing myofibrils, where we observed mature myofibrils acting as templates, or at the interstice of several separated myofibrils.
During sarcomeric addition, myosin filaments are assembled onto the premyofibril laterally. This lateral addition, which proceeds stepwise along the axial direction, plays an important role in the accumulation of Z-bodies to form mature Z-disks and in the regulation of sarcomeric alignment during maturation.
PMCID: PMC3543992  PMID: 23118131
Myofibrillogenesis; Sarcomere addition; Myosin filaments; Second harmonic generation; On-stage incubator
22.  The costamere bridges sarcomeres to the sarcolemma in striated muscle 
Costameres are sub-membranous, Z-line associated structures found in striated muscle. They have been shown to have important roles in transmission of force from the sarcomere to the sarcolemma and extracellular matrix, maintaining mechanical integrity of the sarcolemma, and orchestrating mechanically related signaling. The costamere is akin to the more well-known focal adhesion complex present in most cells. The Z-line is a critical structural anchor for the sarcomere, but it is also a hot-spot for muscle cell signaling. Therefore functionally, the costamere represents a two-way signaling highway tethered between the Z-line and the extracellular matrix, relaying mechanical stress signals from outside the cell to intracellular signaling networks. In this role it can modulate myofibril growth and contraction. The major force generated by sarcomeres is transduced in the lateral direction from the sarcomere to the extracellular matrix through the costamere.
Two major protein complexes have been described at the costamere: the dystrophin–glycoprotein complex and the integrin–vinculin–talin complex. The importance of these two protein complexes in striated muscle function has between demonstrated both in human disease and mouse models. Members of the dystrophin glycoprotein complex and integrins have both been reported to interact directly with filamin-C, thus linking costameric complexes with those present at the Z-line. Moreover, studies from our labs and others have shown that the Z-line proteins belonging to the PDZ-LIM domain protein family, enigma homolog (ENH) and cypher, may directly or indirectly be involved in this linkage. The following review will focus on the protein components of this linkage, their function in force transmission, and how the dysfunction or loss of proteins within these complexes contributes to muscular disease.
PMCID: PMC3770312  PMID: 24039381
Z-line; Cypher/ZASP; Costamere; Mechanotransduction; Integrin; Vinculin
23.  Serum Response Factor Micro-Managing Cardiogenesis 
Current opinion in cell biology  2007;19(6):618-627.
Serum response factor (SRF), a cardiac enriched transcription factor, is required for the appearance of beating sarcomeres in the heart. SRF may also direct the expression of microRNAs (miRs) that inhibit the expression of cardiac regulatory factors. The recent knockout of miR-1-2, an SRF gene target, showed defective heart development, caused in part by the induction of GATA6, Irx4/5, and Hand2, that may alter cardiac morphogenesis, channel activity and cell cycling. SRF and co-factors play an obligatory role in cardiogenesis, as major determinants of myocyte differentiation not only by regulating the biogenesis of muscle contractile proteins but also by driving the expression of silencer miRNA.
PMCID: PMC2735128  PMID: 18023168
24.  Point Mutations in Human β Cardiac Myosin Heavy Chain Have Differential Effects on Sarcomeric Structure and Assembly: An ATP Binding Site Change Disrupts Both Thick and Thin Filaments, Whereas Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Mutations Display Normal Assembly 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;137(1):131-140.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a human heart disease characterized by increased ventricular mass, focal areas of fibrosis, myocyte, and myofibrillar disorganization. This genetically dominant disease can be caused by mutations in any one of several contractile proteins, including β cardiac myosin heavy chain (βMHC). To determine whether point mutations in human βMHC have direct effects on interfering with filament assembly and sarcomeric structure, full-length wild-type and mutant human βMHC cDNAs were cloned and expressed in primary cultures of neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes (NRC) under conditions that promote myofibrillogenesis. A lysine to arginine change at amino acid 184 in the consensus ATP binding sequence of human βMHC resulted in abnormal subcellular localization and disrupted both thick and thin filament structure in transfected NRC. Diffuse βMHC K184R protein appeared to colocalize with actin throughout the myocyte, suggesting a tight interaction of these two proteins. Human βMHC with S472V mutation assembled normally into thick filaments and did not affect sarcomeric structure. Two mutant myosins previously described as causing human hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, R249Q and R403Q, were competent to assemble into thick filaments producing myofibrils with well defined I bands, A bands, and H zones. Coexpression and detection of wild-type βMHC and either R249Q or R403Q proteins in the same myocyte showed these proteins are equally able to assemble into the sarcomere and provided no discernible differences in subcellular localization. Thus, human βMHC R249Q and R403Q mutant proteins were readily incorporated into NRC sarcomeres and did not disrupt myofilament formation. This study indicates that the phenotype of myofibrillar disarray seen in HCM patients which harbor either of these two mutations may not be directly due to the failure of the mutant myosin heavy chain protein to assemble and form normal sarcomeres, but may rather be a secondary effect possibly resulting from the chronic stress of decreased βMHC function.
PMCID: PMC2139848  PMID: 9105042
25.  Expression profiles of muscle disease-associated genes and their isoforms during differentiation of cultured human skeletal muscle cells 
The formation of contractile myofibrils requires the stepwise onset of expression of muscle specific proteins. It is likely that elucidation of the expression patterns of muscle-specific sarcomeric proteins is important to understand muscle disorders originating from defects in contractile sarcomeric proteins.
We investigated the expression profile of a panel of sarcomeric components with a focus on proteins associated with a group of congenital disorders. The analyses were performed in cultured human skeletal muscle cells during myoblast proliferation and myotube development.
Our culture technique resulted in the development of striated myotubes and the expression of adult isoforms of the sarcomeric proteins, such as fast TnI, fast TnT, adult fast and slow MyHC isoforms and predominantly skeletal muscle rather than cardiac actin. Many proteins involved in muscle diseases, such as beta tropomyosin, slow TnI, slow MyBPC and cardiac TnI were readily detected in the initial stages of muscle cell differentiation, suggesting the possibility of an early role for these proteins as constituent of the developing contractile apparatus during myofibrillogenesis. This suggests that in disease conditions the mechanisms of pathogenesis for each of the mutated sarcomeric proteins might be reflected by altered expression patterns, and disturbed assembly of cytoskeletal, myofibrillar structures and muscle development.
In conclusion, we here confirm that cell cultures of human skeletal muscle are an appropriate tool to study developmental stages of myofibrillogenesis. The expression of several disease-associated proteins indicates that they might be a useful model system for studying the pathogenesis of muscle diseases caused by defects in specific sarcomeric constituents.
PMCID: PMC3549291  PMID: 23273262
Myogenesis; Sarcomere; Myoblast; Skeletal muscle

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