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Dev Biol. 2000 May 1;221(1):112-9.

Neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and myoblast fusion.

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Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Considerable evidence points to an involvement of neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in myoblast fusion. Changes in the level of NCAM expression, isoform specificity, and localization in muscle cells and tissues correspond to key morphogenetic events during muscle differentiation and repair. Furthermore, anti-NCAM antibodies have been shown by others to reduce the rate of myoblast fusion, whereas overexpression of NCAM cDNAs increases the rate of myoblast fusion compared to controls. In this study we have used a novel fusion assay based on intracistronic complementation of lacZ, in combination with fluorescent X-gal histochemistry and immunocytochemistry to assess levels of NCAM expression in individual muscle cells. Our results indicate that a substantial proportion of newly fused myoblasts have NCAM expression levels unchanged from the levels of the surrounding unfused population suggesting that increased expression of NCAM is not required for wild-type myoblasts to fuse. Moreover, pure populations of primary myoblasts isolated from mice homozygous null for NCAM and therefore lacking the molecule, when placed in differentiation medium, consistently fused to form contractile myotubes with kinetics equivalent to wild-type primary myoblasts. We conclude that the increase in expression of NCAM, although typically observed during myogenesis, is not essential to myoblast fusion to form myotubes.

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