• myogenic differentiation;
  • membrane lipids;
  • myotube formation

Proliferating mouse C2 myoblast cells resist haemagglutinating virus of Japan, Sendai virus (HVJ) mediated cell fusion. However, differentiating C2 cells can be induced to fuse by HVJ, suggesting that the rigid membrane of C2 cells changes during the differentiation. To investigate this phenomenon, changes in membrane lipids which affect fluidity were examined. Membrane cholesterol gradually decreased with the differentiation of C2 cells. However, spontaneous fusion to form myotubes and artificial fusion induced by HVJ were both inhibited when the level of cholesterol was prevented from falling in the cell membrane. The membranes of differentiating C2 cells contained more unsaturated fatty acids than those of proliferating cells. Thus, when differentiating C2 cells were treated with stearate (a saturated fatty acid), they failed to form myotubes and were insensitive to HVJ-mediated fusion. Whereas, if proliferating C2 cells were given linolenate (an unsaturated fatty acid), they became capable of HVJ-induced fusion. These results indicate that differentiating C2 cells change their fusion sensitivity by decreasing cholesterol, probably at the same time as they increase the unsaturated fatty acid content of the cell membrane.