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Abstract

Myostatin is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle growth. We have previously reported that recombinant myostatin protein inhibits DNA and protein synthesis in C2C12 cells. Our objective was to assess if C2C12 cells express myostatin, determine its sub-cellular localization and the developmental stage of C2C12 cells in which myostatin mRNA and protein are expressed. To study the endogenous expression of myostatin, C2C12 myoblasts were allowed to progress to myotubes, and changes in the levels of endogenous myostatin mRNA expression were determined by RT–PCR. The myostatin protein and the two major myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms (MHC-I and -II) were determined by Western blot. Confirmation of the relative MHC expression patterns was obtained by a modified polyacrylamide gel electropheretic (PAGE) procedure. Imunofluorescence staining was employed to localize the site of myostatin expression and the relative distribution of the MHC isoforms. Co-expression of these proteins was studied using a dual staining approach. Expression of myostatin mRNA was found in myotubes but not in myoblasts. Myostatin protein was seen in most but not all, of the nuclei of polynucleated fibers expressing MHC-II, and myostatin was detected in the cytoplasm of myotube. The localization of myostatin protein in myotube nuclei was confirmed by Western blot of isolated nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions. Incubation of C2C12 myotubes with graded doses of dexamethasone dose-dependently increased the intensity of nuclear myostatin immunostaining and also resulted in the appearance of cytoplasmic expression. In conclusion, myostatin was expressed mostly in C2C12 myotubes nuclei expressing MHC-II. Its predominant nuclear localization suggests that it may play a role in transcriptional regulation. J. Cell. Physiol. 190: 170–179, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.