Background: Muscle myofibrils and sarcomeres present exceptional examples of highly ordered cytoskeletal filament arrays, whose distinct spatial organization is an essential aspect of muscle cell functionality. We utilized ultra-structural analysis to investigate the assembly of myofibrils and sarcomeres within developing myotubes of the indirect flight musculature of Drosophila.
Results: A temporal sequence composed of three major processes was identified: subdivision of the unorganized cytoplasm of nascent, multi-nucleated myotubes into distinct organelle-rich and filament-rich domains; initial organization of the filament-rich domains into myofibrils harboring nascent sarcomeric units; and finally, maturation of the highly-ordered pattern of sarcomeric thick (myosin-based) and thin (microfilament-based) filament arrays in parallel to myofibril radial growth. Significantly, organized microtubule arrays were present throughout these stages and exhibited dynamic changes in their spatial patterns consistent with instructive roles. Genetic manipulations confirm these notions, and imply specific and critical guidance activities of the microtubule-based cytoskeleton, as well as structural interdependence between the myosin- and actin-based filament arrays.
Conclusions: Our observations highlight a surprisingly significant, behind-the-scenes role for microtubules in establishment of myofibril and sarcomere spatial patterns and size, and provide a detailed account of the interplay between major cytoskeletal elements in generating these essential contractile myogenic units.
Keywords: Drosophila; microtubules; myofibers; sarcomeres.
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