Plectin (M(r) > 500,000) is a versatile and widely expressed cytolinker protein. In striated muscle it is predominantly found at the Z-disc level where it colocalizes with the intermediate filament protein desmin. Both proteins show altered labeling patterns in tissues of muscular dystrophy patients. Moreover, mutations in the plectin gene lead to the autosomal recessive human disorder epidermolysis bullosa simplex with muscular dystrophy, and defects in the desmin gene have been shown to cause familiar cardiac and skeletal myopathy. Since intermediate filaments (IFs) in striated muscle tissue have been found to be intimately associated with mitochondria, we investigated whether plectin is involved in this association. Using postembedding immunogold labeling of Lowicryl sections and immunogold labeling of ultrathin cryosections, we show that plectin is associated with desmin IFs linking myofibrils to mitochondria at the level of the Z-disc and along the entire length of the sarcomere. The localization of plectin label at the mitochondrial membrane itself was consistent with a putative linker function of plectin between desmin IFs and the mitochondrial surface. In mitochondrion-rich muscle fibers, both plectin and desmin were part of an ordered arrangement of mitochondrial side branches, which wound around myofibrils adjacent to the Z-discs and were anchored into a filamentous network transversing from one fibril to the other. The association of mitochondria with plectin and IFs was seen also in tissues without regular distribution patterns of mitochondria, such as heart muscle and neonatal skeletal muscle tissues. These data were supplemented with in vitro binding assays showing direct interaction of plectin with desmin via its carboxy-terminal IF-binding domain. As a cytolinker protein associated with mitochondria and desmin IFs, plectin could play an important role in the positioning and shape formation, in particular branching, of mitochondrial organelles in striated muscle tissues.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.