Muscle development in Caenorhabditis elegans: mutants exhibiting retarded sarcomere construction.
We have studied the structural changes within the body-wall muscle cells of Caenorhabditis elegans during postmitotic development. In wildtype, the number of sarcomeres progressively increases, and each sarcomere appears to grow in lengthand depth continuously during this period. In mature wild-type cells, the anterior-most body-wall muscle cells have 6–7 sarcomeres; the rest have 9–10 sarcomeres per cell. Twelve mutants in the unc-52 II gene exhibit markedly retarded sarcomere construction and progressive paralysis. Several unc-52 mutants, such as the severely paralyzed SU200, produced only 2–3 sarcomeres perbody-wall muscle cell, while the other mildly paralyzed unc-52 mutants, such as SU250, build 3–4 sarcomeres per muscle cell. Other structures such as the pharynx and even the noncontractile organelles of the body-wall muscle cells do not appear to be structurally or functionally altered. The unc-52 body-wall sarcomeres become moderately disorganized as they are outstripped by cell growth; sufficient order is preserved, however, so that the majority of thick and thin filaments still interdigitate. The myosin heavy chains of SU200 body-wall musclefail to accumulate normally, while the pharyngeal myosin heavy chains do not appear to be specifically affected. This biochemical result correlates well withthe specificity of morphological changes in the mutant. A model is discussed in which the biochemical and morphological deficits are explained by a simple regulatory mechanism.