Colocalization of nestin and vimentin/desmin in skeletal muscle cells demonstrated by three-dimensional fluorescence digital imaging microscopy

Exp Cell Res. 1994 Oct;214(2):447-58. doi: 10.1006/excr.1994.1281.


During skeletal muscle development three intermediate filament proteins are expressed: nestin, vimentin, and desmin. Vimentin and desmin belong to the class III intermediate filaments and are closely related to each other, whereas nestin is a more distantly related, class VI, intermediate filament. It was previously observed by conventional immunocytochemistry that the intracellular patterns of nestin, desmin, and vimentin appeared indistinguishable, despite nestin's more distant evolutionary relationship. We here extend this analysis by applying three-dimensional fluorescence digital imaging microscopy to compare the intracellular distribution of nestin with that of desmin, vimentin, actin, and tubulin in G6 human fetal skeletal muscle cells. We show that in vitro differentiation of G6 cells can produce an intermediate filament expression pattern similar to that observed during myogenesis in vivo, i.e., downregulation of vimentin but not of nestin and desmin during myotube maturation. The image analysis demonstrated that the degree of overlap between nestin and desmin/vimentin was very extensive in myoblasts and in multinucleate myotubes in all regions of the cells. In contrast, nestin did not colocalize with tubulin or actin in G6 myoblasts. In particular, nestin immunoreactivity was not detected at the microtubule-organizing center, and it was only sparsely observed at the cell periphery where actin stress fibers were seen. Our data lend further support to the notion that nestin interacts very closely with the two more distantly related class III intermediate filament proteins desmin and vimentin in the entire muscle cell, before and after myotube formation. A comparison of conserved amino acid residues in the different IFs suggest that charged amino acid residues in the alpha-helical rod domain may play a role in the interaction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cell Line
  • Desmin / isolation & purification*
  • Desmin / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filaments / physiology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Nestin
  • Protein Binding
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Vimentin / isolation & purification*
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Desmin
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • NES protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nestin
  • Vimentin