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BMC Cell Biol. 2010 Sep 17;11:70. doi: 10.1186/1471-2121-11-70.

Knockdown and overexpression of Unc-45b result in defective myofibril organization in skeletal muscles of zebrafish embryos.

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University of Maryland School of Medicine Interdisciplinary Training Program in Muscle Biology, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Unc-45 is a myosin chaperone and a Hsp90 co-chaperone that plays a key role in muscle development. Genetic and biochemical studies in C. elegans have demonstrated that Unc-45 facilitates the process of myosin folding and assembly in body wall muscles. Loss or overexpression of Unc-45 in C. elegans results in defective myofibril organization. In the zebrafish Danio rerio, unc-45b, a homolog of C. elegans unc-45, is expressed in both skeletal and cardiac muscles. Earlier studies indicate that mutation or knockdown of unc-45b expression in zebrafish results in a phenotype characterized by a loss of both thick and thin filament organization in skeletal and cardiac muscle. The effects of unc-45b knockdown on other sarcomeric structures and the phenotype of Unc-45b overexpression, however, are poorly understood in vertebrates.


Both knockdown and overexpression provide useful tools to study gene function during animal development. Using such methods, we characterized the role of Unc-45b in myofibril assembly of skeletal muscle in Danio rerio. We showed that, in addition to thick and thin filament defects, knockdown of unc-45b expression disrupted sarcomere organization in M-lines and Z-lines of skeletal muscles in zebrafish embryos. Western blotting analysis showed that myosin protein levels were significantly decreased in unc-45b knockdown embryos. Similarly, embryos overexpressing Unc-45b also exhibited severely disorganized myosin thick filaments. Disruption of thick filament organization by Unc-45b overexpression depends on the C-terminal UCS domain in Unc-45b required for interaction with myosin. Deletion of the C-terminal UCS domain abolished the disruptive activity of Unc-45b in myosin thick filament organization. In contrast, deletion of the N-terminal TPR domain required for binding with Hsp90α had no effect.


Collectively, these studies indicate that the expression levels of Unc-45b must be precisely regulated to ensure normal myofibril organization. Loss or overexpression of Unc-45b leads to defective myofibril organization.

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