ABSTRACT: The present study describes transitions in myosin heavy chain expression in the extraocular muscles of rats between the ages of E17 and adult. The unique phenotype of the extraocular muscle is reflected in its fibre type composition, which is comprised by six distinct profiles, each defined by location (orbital versus global layer) and innervation pattern (single versus multiple terminals). During extraocular muscle myogenesis, developmental myosin heavy chains were expressed in both primary and secondary fibres from embryonic day E17 through the first postnatal week. At this time, the downregulation of developmental myosin heavy chain isoforms began in the global layer in a fibre type-specific manner, reaching completion only after the first postnatal month. By contrast, developmental isoforms were retained in the overwhelming majority of orbital layer fibres into adulthood and expressed differentially along the length of these fibres. Fast myosin heavy chain was detected pre- and postnatally in developing secondary fibres and in all of the singly innervated fibre types and one of the multiply innervated fibre types in the adult. As many as four fast isoforms were detected in maturing extraocular muscle, including the extraocular muscle-specific myosin heavy chain. Slow myosin heavy chain was expressed in primary fibres throughout development and in one of the multiply innervated fibre types in the adult. In contrast, the pure fast-twitch retractor bulbi initially expressed slow myosin heavy chain in fibres destined to switch to the fast myosin heavy chain developmental programme. Based upon spatial and temporal patterns of myosin heavy chain isoform transitions, we suggest that epigenetic influences, rather than purely myogenic stage-specific factors, are critical in determining the unique extraocular muscle phenotype.
Journal of Muscle Research and Cell Motility 07/1996; 17(3):297-312. · 1.98 Impact Factor