Desmin is the main intermediate filament (IF) protein of muscle cells. In skeletal muscle, desmin IFs form a scaffold that interconnects the entire contractile apparatus with the subsarcolemmal cytoskeleton and cytoplasmic organelles. The interaction between desmin and the sarcolemma is mediated by a number of membrane proteins, many of which are Ca2+-sensitive. In the present study, we analyzed the effects of the Ca2+ chelator EGTA (1.75 mM) on the expression and distribution of desmin in C2C12 myoblasts grown in culture. We used indirect immunofluorescence microscopy and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to analyze desmin distribution and expression in C2C12 cells grown in the presence or absence of EGTA. Control C2C12 myoblasts showed a well-spread morphology after a few hours in culture and became bipolar when grown for 24 h in the presence of EGTA. Control C2C12 cells showed a dense network of desmin from the perinuclear region to the cell periphery, whereas EGTA-treated cells showed desmin aggregates in the cytoplasm. RT-PCR analysis revealed a down-regulation of desmin expression in EGTA-treated C2C12 cells compared to untreated cells. The present results suggest that extracellular Ca2+ availability plays a role in the regulation of desmin expression and in the spatial distribution of desmin IFs in myoblasts, and is involved in the generation and maintenance of myoblast cell shape
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