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Trends Cell Biol. 2005 Sep;15(9):477-85.

The M-band: an elastic web that crosslinks thick filaments in the center of the sarcomere.

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Institute of Cell Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Hönggerberg, CH-8093 Zürich.


The sarcomere of striated muscle is an efficient molecular machine, characterized by perfect structural organization of contractile filaments. This order is ensured by the sarcomere cytoskeleton, an important element of which is the M-band, believed to maintain the thick filament lattice. We review here recent progress in understanding the M-band function and its structural organization. We explain how the M-band might reduce the intrinsic instability of thick filaments and help titin to maintain order in the sarcomeres. The M-band molecular structure has been clarified recently by biochemical and biophysical approaches that focused on the properties of the prominent M-band component myomesin. These have shown that antiparallel myomesin dimers might link the thick filaments in the M-band, a role analogous to that of alpha-actinin in the Z-disc. Furthermore, similar to titin, myomesin is a molecular spring with complex visco-elastic properties that can be modified by alternative splicing. M-band protein composition correlates with the expression of titin isoforms and appears to be a reliable marker for biomechanical conditions in contracting muscle. We propose that the M-band is in fact a dynamic structure that monitors the stress appearing in the thick filament lattice during contraction and quickly reorganizes to meet new physiological requirements.

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