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Development. 2005 Jul;132(13):3079-92. Epub 2005 Jun 1.

Muscle arm development in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology, Collaborative Program in Developmental Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A8, Canada.


In several types of animals, muscle cells use membrane extensions to contact motor axons during development. To better understand the process of membrane extension in muscle cells, we investigated the development of Caenorhabditis elegans muscle arms, which extend to motor axons and form the postsynaptic element of the neuromuscular junction. We found that muscle arm development is a highly regulated process: the number of muscle arms extended by each muscle, the shape of the muscle arms and the path taken by the muscle arms to reach the motor axons are largely stereotypical. We also investigated the role of several cytoskeletal components and regulators during arm development, and found that tropomyosin (LEV-11), the actin depolymerizing activity of ADF/cofilin (UNC-60B) and, surprisingly, myosin heavy chain B (UNC-54) are each required for muscle arm extension. This is the first evidence that UNC-54, which is found in thick filaments of sarcomeres, can also play a role in membrane extension. The muscle arm phenotypes produced when these genes are mutated support a 'two-phase' model that distinguishes passive muscle arm development in embryogenesis from active muscle arm extension during larval development.

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