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J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 1996 Dec;17(6):657-67.

Myosin isoform transitions in four rabbit muscles during postnatal growth.

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Station de Recherches Cunicoles, INRA, BP 27, Castanet-Tolosan, France.


Four rabbit muscles (i.e. semimembranosus proprius, psoas major, biceps femoris and longissimus lumborum), differing in their fibre type composition in the adult, were investigated during postnatal development. Muscle samples were taken at 1, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 49 and 77 days of age. Complementary techniques were used to characterize myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform transitions, i.e. SDS-PAGE, immunocytochemistry and conventional histochemistry. Good accordance was found between electrophoretic and immunocytochemical techniques. Our results show that rabbit muscles were phenotypically immature at birth. At 1 day of age, perinatal isoform represented 70-90% of the total isoform content of the muscles. Two generations of myofibres could be observed on the basis of their morphology and reaction to specific antibodies. In all muscles, primary fibres expressed slow MHC. In contrast, secondary generation of fibres never expressed slow MHC in future fast muscles, while half of them expressed slow MHC in the future slow-twitch muscle, the semimembranosus proprius. During the postnatal period, all muscles displayed a transition from embryonic to perinatal MHC isoforms, followed by a transition from perinatal to adult MHC isoforms. These transitions occured mainly during the first postnatal month. The embryonic isoform was no longer expressed after 14 days, except in longissimus where it disappeared after 28 days. On the contrary, large differences were found in the timing of disappearance of the perinatal isoform between the four muscles. The perinatal isoform disappeared between 28 and 35 days in semimembranosus proprius and 35 and 49 days in psoas and biceps femoris. Interestingly, the perinatal isoform was still present in 6% of the fibres in longissimus at 77 days, the commercial slaughter age, denoting a great delay in the maturation. Fate of each generation of fibres differed between muscles.

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