Modulation of myoblast fusion by caveolin-3 in dystrophic skeletal muscle cells: implications for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy-1C

Mol Biol Cell. 2003 Oct;14(10):4075-88. doi: 10.1091/mbc.e03-03-0161. Epub 2003 Aug 7.


Caveolae are vesicular invaginations of the plasma membrane. Caveolin-3 is the principal structural component of caveolae in skeletal muscle cells in vivo. We have recently generated caveolin-3 transgenic mice and demonstrated that overexpression of wild-type caveolin-3 in skeletal muscle fibers is sufficient to induce a Duchenne-like muscular dystrophy phenotype. In addition, we have shown that caveolin-3 null mice display mild muscle fiber degeneration and T-tubule system abnormalities. These data are consistent with the mild phenotype observed in Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy-1C (LGMD-1C) in humans, characterized by a approximately 95% reduction of caveolin-3 expression. Thus, caveolin-3 transgenic and null mice represent valid mouse models to study Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and LGMD-1C, respectively, in humans. Here, we derived conditionally immortalized precursor skeletal muscle cells from caveolin-3 transgenic and null mice. We show that overexpression of caveolin-3 inhibits myoblast fusion to multinucleated myotubes and lack of caveolin-3 enhances the fusion process. M-cadherin and microtubules have been proposed to mediate the fusion of myoblasts to myotubes. Interestingly, we show that M-cadherin is downregulated in caveolin-3 transgenic cells and upregulated in caveolin-3 null cells. For the first time, variations of M-cadherin expression have been linked to a muscular dystrophy phenotype. In addition, we demonstrate that microtubules are disorganized in caveolin-3 null myotubes, indicating the importance of the cytoskeleton network in mediating the phenotype observed in these cells. Taken together, these results propose caveolin-3 as a key player in myoblast fusion and suggest that defects of the fusion process may represent additional molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of DMD and LGMD-1C in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Caveolae / physiology
  • Caveolin 3
  • Caveolins / metabolism*
  • Caveolins / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophies / metabolism*
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / metabolism*
  • Myoblasts, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Myoblasts, Skeletal / pathology


  • Cadherins
  • Cav3 protein, mouse
  • Caveolin 3
  • Caveolins
  • M-cadherin