Structure and function of the murine muscle–tendon junction

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Abstract

The muscle-tendon junctions of the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis muscles from adult Balb C Bailey/J mice have been examined tensiometrically and ultrastructurally following removal of cellular membrane and soluble cytoplasm by exposure to nonionic detergent. As judged by the ability of the extracted muscle to generate tension upon exposure to ATP and to transmit the generated tension to the tendon, detergent extraction leaves the muscle-tendon junction functionally intact. Electron microscopic analysis of the extracted muscle-tendon junctions reveals that the relationship between the terminal myofilaments and the lamina densa of the basal lamina is retained, despite the extensive extraction of the plasma membrane. Fine filaments (2–7 nm) are seen to connect the lamina densa with an electron-dense intracellular layer into which terminal actin filaments appear to insert. These fine filaments are considered to represent an important component of the structural linkage between myofilaments and connective tissue and hence to be a significant component of the tension transmitting mechanism. Their precise nature is not known, but some part of the filaments must pass through the hydrophobic compartment of the plasma membrane and thus must be a transmembrane component of considerable tensile strength. These studies suggest that detergent-extractable membrane lipids play no significant role in the transmission of tension at the muscle–tendon junction, and that fine filaments, probably protein, are responsible for transmitting tension from myofilaments, through the plasma membrane, to the lamina densa of the basal lamina.

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