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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40182. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040182. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

Large isoforms of UNC-89 (obscurin) are required for muscle cell architecture and optimal calcium release in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Center for Cell Biology and Cancer Research, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, USA.


Calcium, a ubiquitous intracellular signaling molecule, controls a diverse array of cellular processes. Consequently, cells have developed strategies to modulate the shape of calcium signals in space and time. The force generating machinery in muscle is regulated by the influx and efflux of calcium ions into the muscle cytoplasm. In order for efficient and effective muscle contraction to occur, calcium needs to be rapidly, accurately and reliably regulated. The mechanisms underlying this highly regulated process are not fully understood. Here, we show that the Caenorhabditis elegans homolog of the giant muscle protein obscurin, UNC-89, is required for normal muscle cell architecture. The large immunoglobulin domain-rich isoforms of UNC-89 are critical for sarcomere and sarcoplasmic reticulum organization. Furthermore, we have found evidence that this structural organization is crucial for excitation-contraction coupling in the body wall muscle, through the coordination of calcium signaling. Thus, our data implicates UNC-89 in maintaining muscle cell architecture and that this precise organization is essential for optimal calcium mobilization and efficient and effective muscle contraction.

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