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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Phenotypes of Myopathy-related Actin Mutants in differentiated C2C12 Myotubes

Friederike S Bathe1, Heidi Rommelaere2 and Laura M Machesky1*

Author affiliations

1 School of Biosciences, Division of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

2 Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB 09) and Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, 9000, Belgium

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2007, 8:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-8-2

Published: 16 January 2007



About 20 % of nemaline myopathies are thus far related to skeletal muscle alpha-actin. Seven actin mutants located in different parts of the actin molecule and linked to different forms of the disease were selected and expressed as EGFP-tagged constructs in differentiated C2C12 mytoubes. Results were compared with phenotypes in patient skeletal muscle fibres and with previous expression studies in fibroblasts and C2C12 myoblasts/myotubes.


Whereas EGFP wt-actin nicely incorporated into endogenous stress fibres and sarcomeric structures, the mutants showed a range of phenotypes, which generally changed upon differentiation. Many mutants appeared delocalized in myoblasts but integrated into endogenous actin structures after 4–6 days of differentiation, demonstrating a poor correlation between the appearance in myotubes and the severity of the disease. However, for some mutants, integration into stress fibres induced aberrant structures in differentiated cells, like thickening or fragmentation of stress fibres. Other mutants almost failed to integrate but formed huge aggregates in the cytoplasm of myotubes. Those did not co-stain with alpha-actinin, a main component of nemaline bodies found in patient muscle. Interestingly, nuclear aggregates as formed by two of the mutants in myoblasts were found less frequently or not at all in differentiated cells.


Myotubes are a suitable system to study the capacity of a mutant to incorporate into actin structures or to form or induce pathological changes. Some of the phenotypes observed in undifferentiated myoblasts may only be in vitro effects. Other phenotypes, like aberrant stress fibres or rod formation may be more directly correlated with disease phenotypes. Some mutants did not induce any changes in the cellular actin system, indicating the importance of additional studies like functional assays to fully characterize the pathological impact of a mutant.