• α-actinin;
  • cell junction;
  • cardiomyocyte;
  • heart;
  • myofibrillogenesis;
  • myomesin;
  • thin filament;
  • titin;
  • tropomodulin1

BACKGROUND: We explored a function for tropomyosin (TM) in mammalian myofibril assembly and cardiac development by analyzing a deletion in the mouse TPM1 gene targeting αTM1, the major striated muscle TM isoform. RESULTS: Mice lacking αTM1 are embryonic lethal at E9.5 with enlarged, misshapen, and non-beating hearts characterized by an abnormally thin myocardium and reduced trabeculae. αTM1-deficient cardiomyocytes do not assemble striated myofibrils, instead displaying aberrant non-striated F-actin fibrils with α-actinin puncta dispersed irregularly along their lengths. αTM1's binding partner, tropomodulin1 (Tmod1), is also disorganized, and both myomesin-containing thick filaments as well as titin Z1Z2 fail to assemble in a striated pattern. Adherens junctions are reduced in size in αTM1-deficient cardiomyocytes, α-actinin/F-actin adherens belts fail to assemble at apical cell–cell contacts, and cell contours are highly irregular, resulting in abnormal cell shapes and a highly folded cardiac surface. In addition, Tmod1-deficient cardiomyocytes exhibit failure of α-actinin/F-actin adherens belt assembly. CONCLUSIONS: Absence of αTM1 resulting in unstable F-actin may preclude sarcomere formation and/or lead to degeneration of partially assembled sarcomeres due to unregulated actomyosin interactions. Our data also identify a novel αTM1/Tmod1-based pathway stabilizing F-actin at cell–cell junctions, which may be required for maintenance of cell shapes during embryonic cardiac morphogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 243:800–817, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.