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Eur J Biochem. 1997 Jul 1;247(1):30-6.

Quantitative analyses of myosin heavy-chain mRNA and protein isoforms in single fibers reveal a pronounced fiber heterogeneity in normal rabbit muscles.

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Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Konstanz, Germany.


A highly sensitive method of reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was established to study myosin heavy-chain (MHC) mRNA isoform expression in single fibers of rabbit limb muscles. In combination with myofibrillar adenosine triphosphatase histochemistry and electrophoretic separation of MHC protein isoforms in fragments of the same fibers, the direct RT-PCR method identified the pMHC20-40 and pMHC24-79 cDNA sequences as being specific to MHCIIb and MHCIId/x isoforms, respectively. In addition, a direct RT-PCR was established for determining relative amounts of MHC mRNA isoforms by using a sequence specific to alpha-skeletal actin as an endogenous reference. Analyses of large amounts of single fibers revealed an unexpected heterogeneity of the fast fiber population with regard to numerous fibers coexpressing MHCIIb and MHCIId/x. Based on quantitative RT-PCR, the percentages of MHCIIb/MHCIId hybrid fibers amounted to approximately 55% in the deep portion of gastrocnemius, to 43% in the adductor magnus, and to 12% in psoas muscle. Moreover, the two MHC mRNA isoforms were nonuniformly distributed along the fiber length. Qualitative RT-PCR detected even higher amounts of hybrid fibers in the three muscles. The percentages of hybrid fibers identified at the protein level were smaller in adductor magnus muscle (25%) and psoas muscle (5%), but equaled that of the mRNA analysis in gastrocnemius muscle (61%). The detection of high amounts of IIBD and IIDB fibers suggested that hybrid fibers represent functional elements within the fiber spectrum of normal muscles. Our observations on hybrid fibers reveal a heterogeneity within the fiber population of normal muscles that has not been realized to date.

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