We studied differential splicing of nebulin, a giant filamentous F-actin binding protein (M(r) approximately 700-800kDa) that is found in skeletal muscle. Nebulin spans the thin filament length, its C-terminus is anchored in the Z-disc, and its N-terminal region is located toward the thin filament pointed end. Various lines of evidence indicate that nebulin plays important roles in thin filament and Z-disc structure in skeletal muscle. In the present work we studied nebulin in a range of muscle types during postnatal development and performed transcript studies with a mouse nebulin exon microarray, developed by us, whose results were confirmed by RT-PCR. We also performed protein studies with high-resolution SDS-agarose gels and Western blots, and structural studies with electron microscopy. We found during postnatal development of the soleus muscle major changes in splicing in both the super-repeat region and the Z-disc region of nebulin; interestingly, these changes were absent in other muscle types. Three novel Z-disc exons, previously described in the mouse gene, were upregulated during postnatal development of soleus muscle and this was correlated with a significant increase in Z-disc width. These findings support the view that nebulin plays an important role in Z-disc width regulation. In summary, we discovered changes in both the super-repeat region and the Z-disc region of nebulin, that these changes are muscle-type specific, and that they correlate with differences in sarcomere structure.
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