The association of desmin with the developing myofibrils of cultured embryonic rat heart myocytes

John W. Fuseler, Jerry W. Shay

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The association of desmin, a 55,000-dalton intermediate-filament protein, with the developing cardiac myofibril was studied by immunocytochemical methods in primary cultured myocytes isolated from embyronic rat hearts at different ages. In the earliest contractile myocytes obtained from 10-day-old embryonic hearts, desmin exists as an extensive cytoskeletal network with little or no association with the myofibrils. As the heart develops the cytoskeletal desmin undergoes the myofibrils. Initially, the cytoskeletal desmin appears to outline the developing myofibril as short, discontinuous filaments. At intermediate stages of heart development, desmin filaments in 12- to 16-day-old embryonic myocytes continue to outline the forming myofibrils. Associated with these filaments are crossbridges and foci of desmin spaced at a frequency equal to that of the Z-line spacing. Desmin becomes progressively associated with the myofibril from the central region of the cell toward the cell margin. Desmin filaments at this stage begin to coalesce in the region of the intercalated disk. In the early neonatal heart, desmin of the Z lines becomes continuous across the sarcomere and appears to integrate the myofibrils into a unit. These observations suggest that desmin is not required in the early stages of mammalian heart development for the initial assembly of cardiac sarcomeres or the initiation of cardiac myofibrillar contractions. In later stages of mammalian heart development, desmin is found associated with the cardiac myofibrils in such a manner as to stably integrate these elements into the cytoplasm. Additionally, desmin, in the Z lines of the more mature myocytes appears to maintain the myofibrils in close registry to each other and to the intercalated disk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-457
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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