Using immunocytochemical methods we have studied the distribution of vinculin in the anterior and posterior latissimus dorsi skeletal (ALD and PLD, respectively) muscles of the adult chicken. The ALD muscle is made up of both tonic (85%) and twitch (15%) myofibers, and the PLD muscle is made up entirely of twitch myofibers. In indirect immunofluorescence, antivinculin antibodies stained specific regions adjacent to the sarcolemma of the ALD and PLD muscles. In the central and myotendinous regions of the ALD, staining of the tonic fibers was intense all around the fiber periphery. Staining of the twitch fibers of both ALD and PLD muscles was intense only at neuromuscular junctions and myotendinous regions. Electron microscopy revealed subsarcolemmal, electron-dense plaques associated with the membrane only in those regions where vinculin was localized by immunofluorescence. Using antivinculin antibody and protein A conjugated to colloidal gold, we found that the electron-dense subsarcolemmal densities in the tonic fibers of the ALD contain vinculin; no other structures were labeled. The basal lamina overlying the densities appeared to be connected to the sarcolemma by fine, filamentous structures, more enriched at these sites than elsewhere along the muscle fiber. Increased amounts of endomysial connective tissue were often found just outside the basal lamina near the densities. In tonic ALD muscle fibers, the subsarcolemmal densities were present preferentially over the I-bands. In partially contracted ALD muscle, subsarcolemmal densities adjacent to the Z-disk appeared to be connected to that structure by short filaments. We propose that in the ALD muscle, through their association with the extracellular matrix, the densities stabilize the muscle membrane and perhaps assist in force transmission
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