The fine structure of differentiating muscle in the salamander tail

Research paper by Elizabeth D. Hay

Indexed on: 01 Jan '63Published on: 01 Jan '63Published in: Cell and Tissue Research


Thin methacrylate sections of developing tails of Amblystoma opacum larvae were examined in the electron microscope and a series of stages in the differentiation of the myotome musculature was reconstructed from electron micrographs and earlier light microscopic studies of living muscle. The earliest muscle cell precursor that can be clearly identified is a round or oval cell with abundant cytoplasm containing scattered myofilaments and free ribonucleoprotein granules, but little endoplasmic reticulum. These cells sometimes form a syncytium and they may also be fused with adjacent formed muscle fibers by lateral processes. Nuclei are large and nucleoli are prominent. This cell, called a “myoblast” here, is distinctly different in its appearance from the adjacent mesenchymal cells which have abundant granular endoplasmic reticulum. The earliest myofilaments are of both the thick and thin varieties and are distributed in a disorganized fashion in the cytoplasm. These filaments are similar to the actin and myosin filaments described by Huxley and they are present in the cytoplasm at an earlier stage of differentiation than heretofore suspected from light microscopy studies. The first myofibrils are a heterogeneous combination of thick and thin filaments and dense Z bands and are not homogeneous as so many light microscopists have contended. As development progresses, cross striations become more orderly and definitive sarcomeres are formed. Thereafter, new myofilaments and Z bands seem to be added to the lateral surfaces and distal ends of existing myofibrils.Free ribonucleoprotein granules are a prominent part of the myoblast cytoplasm and are found in close association with the differentiating myofilaments in all stages of development. In early muscle fibers and some of the formed fibers, similar granules are often concentrated in the I bands. A theory of myofilament differentiation based on current concepts of the role of ribonucleoprotein in protein synthesis is presented in the discussion. Stages in myofibril formation and possible relationships of the filaments in developing muscle cells to other types of cytoplasmic filaments are also discussed.