, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 79-87
Date: 11 May 2007

The C. elegans dense body: anchoring and signaling structure of the muscle

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During evolution, both the architecture and the cellular physiology of muscles have been remarkably maintained. Striated muscles of invertebrates, although less complex, strongly resemble vertebrate skeletal muscles. In particular, the basic contractile unit called the sarcomere is almost identical between vertebrates and invertebrates. In vertebrate muscles, sarcomeric actin filaments are anchored to attachment points called Z-disks, which are linked to the extra-cellular matrix (ECM) by a muscle specific focal adhesion site called the costamere. In this review, we focus on the dense body of the animal model Caenorhabditis elegans. The C. elegans dense body is a structure that performs two in one roles at the same time, that of the Z-disk and of the costamere. The dense body is anchored in the muscle membrane and provides rigidity to the muscle by mechanically linking actin filaments to the ECM. In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that, in addition to its structural role, the dense body also performs a signaling function in muscle cells. In this paper, we review recent advances in the understanding of the C. elegans dense body composition and function.