Early incorporation of obscurin into nascent sarcomeres: implication for myofibril assembly during cardiac myogenesis

  • Andrei B. BorisovEmail author
  • Marina G. Martynova
  • Mark W. Russell
Original Paper


Obscurin is a recently identified giant multidomain muscle protein whose functions remain poorly understood. The goal of this study was to investigate the process of assembly of obscurin into nascent sarcomeres during the transition from non-striated myofibril precursors to striated structure of differentiating myofibrils in cell cultures of neonatal rat cardiac myocytes. Double immunofluorescent labeling and high resolution confocal microscopy demonstrated intense incorporation of obscurin in the areas of transition from non-striated to striated regions on the tips of developing myofibrils and at the sites of lateral fusion of nascent sarcomere bundles. We found that obscurin rapidly and precisely accumulated in the middle of the A-band regions of the terminal newly assembled half-sarcomeres in the zones of transition from the continuous, non-striated pattern of sarcomeric α-actinin distribution to cross-striated structure of laterally expanding nascent Z-discs. The striated pattern of obscurin typically ended at these points. This occurred before the assembly of morphologically differentiated terminal Z-discs of the assembling sarcomeres on the tips of growing myofibrils. The presence of obscurin in the areas of the terminal Z-discs of each new sarcomere was detected at the same time or shortly after complete assembly of sarcomeric structure. Many non-striated fibers with very low concentration of obscurin were already immunopositive for sarcomeric actin and myosin. This suggests that obscurin may serve for organization and alignment of myofilaments into the striated pattern. The comparison of obscurin and titin localization in these areas showed that obscurin assembly into the A-bands occurred soon after or concomitantly with incorporation of titin. Electron microscopy of growing myofibrils demonstrated intense formation and integration of myosin filaments into the “open” half-assembled sarcomeres in the areas of the terminal Z–I structures and at the lateral surfaces of newly formed, terminally located nascent sarcomeres. This process progressed before the assembly of the second-formed, terminal Z-discs of new sarcomeres and before the development of ultrastructurally detectable mature M-lines that define the completion of myofibril assembly, which supports the data of immunocytochemical study. Abundant non-aligned sarcomeres in immature myofibrils located on the growing tips were spatially separated and underwent the transition to the registered, aligned pattern. The sarcoplasmic reticulum, the organelle known to interact with obscurin, assembled around each new sarcomere. These results suggest that obscurin is directly involved in the proper positioning and alignment of myofilaments within nascent sarcomeres and in the establishment of the registered pattern of newly assembled myofibrils and the sarcoplasmic reticulum at advanced stages of myofibrillogenesis.


Cardiac myocytes Myofibrillogenesis Myosin Obscurin Sarcomere Sarcoplasmic reticulum Z-disks 



We wish to thank Dr. A. Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos and Dr. Robert Bloch (University of Maryland) for providing the polyclonal antibody to obscurin used in this study. We are thankful to Dr. Bruce Carlson for reading and commenting on the manuscript. The authors gratefully acknowledge support the Department of Pediatrics, the University of Michigan Medical School, from the grants through the Muscular Dystrophy Assocaiation (MDA3803), the NIH (R01 HL 075093-01), and the research funding from the Russian Academy of Sciences. We also thank Pavel Borisov for his help in preparation of the illustrations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrei B. Borisov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marina G. Martynova
    • 2
  • Mark W. Russell
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Congenital Heart Center, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable DiseasesUniversity of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Cellular Cardiology Research Group, Laboratory of Cell MorphologyInstitute of Cytology RASSt PetersburgRussia

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