Myofibrillogenesis in situ was investigated by confocal microscopy of immunofluorescently labelled whole mount preparations of early embryonic chicken heart rudiments. The time-course of incorporation of several components into myofibrils was compared in triple-stained specimens, taken around the time when beating starts. All sarcomeric proteins investigated so far were already expressed before the first contractions and myofibril assembly happened within a few hours. No typical stress fibre-like structures or premyofibrils, structures observed in cultured cardiomyocytes, could be detected during myofibrillogenesis in the heart. Sarcomeric proteins like (α)-actinin, titin and actin were found in a defined localisation pattern even in cardiomyocytes that did not yet contain myofibrils, making up dense body-like structures. As soon as the heart started to beat, all myofibrillar proteins were already located at their exact position in the sarcomere. The maturation of the sarcomeres was characterised by a short delay in the establishment of the pattern for M-line epitopes of titin with respect to Z-disk epitopes and the incorporation of the M-line component myomesin, which preceded that of myosin binding protein-C. Thus dense body-like structures, made up of titin, (α)-actinin and actin filaments serve as the first organised complexes also during myofibrillogenesis in situ and titin functions as a ruler for sarcomere assembly as soon as its C termini have become localised. We suggest that assembly of thin and thick filament occurs independently during myofibrillogenesis in situ and that myomesin might be important for integrating thick filaments with the M-line end of titin.
- © 1999 by Company of Biologists