Effects of electrically induced contractile activity on cultured embryonic chick breast muscle cells


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Abstract. Development of chicken breast muscle is characterized by the sequential appearance of six electrophoretically distinct myosin heavy chain (HC) isoforms. Cultured secondary myotubes, derived from 12-day embryonic chick breast muscle, mainly express the early embryonic HC isoform HCemb/e, normally present in 8-day embryonic breast muscle, and the two fast light chain isoforms LClf and LC2f. Direct low-frequency (2.5 Hz) stimulation of these myotubes via platinum electrodes leads to a shift in myosin HC expression with increases in the late embryonic HC isoform HCemb/1 amounting to 35% of total HC in 19-day-stimulated cultures. Measurements of 35S-methionine incorporation and immunohistochemical analyses demonstrate increases in LC3f. This increase is also seen at the mRNA level. These results indicate that induced contractile activity promotes myotube maturation in vitro. The observation that chronic stimulation enhances the expression of the slow isoform LC2s at the RNA, as well as the protein level, suggests an additional effect consisting of a fast-to-slow change in phenotype expression. In view of the fact that muscle maturation and phenotype expression is under neural control during development in vivo, our results on directly stimulated, aneural myotubes indicate that neurally transmitted contractile activity may be an important factor in modulating phenotype expression of secondary myotubes.