Cell biology

Muscle fibers resemble entire tissues with many nuclei

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Again, smart little things:

Usually, each cell has exactly one nucleus. But the cells of our skeletal muscles are different: These long, fibrous cells have a comparatively large cytoplasm that contains hundreds of nuclei. But up to now, we have known very little about the extent to which the nuclei of a single muscle fiber differ from each other in terms of their gene activity, and what effect this has on the function of the muscle.

A team led by Professor Carmen Birchmeier, head of the research group on Developmental Biology / Signal Transduction at the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), has now unlocked some of the secrets contained in these muscle cell nuclei. As the researchers report in the journal Nature Communications, the team investigated the gene expression of cell nuclei using a still quite novel technique called single-nucleus RNA sequencing — and in the process, they came across an unexpectedly high variety of genetic activity.

“Due to the heterogeneity of its nuclei, a single muscle cell can act almost like a tissue, which consists of a variety of very different cell types,” explains Dr. Minchul Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in Birchmeier’s team and one of the two lead authors of the study. “This enables the cell to fulfill its numerous tasks, like communicating with neurons or producing certain muscle proteins.”

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association, “Muscle cell secrets” at ScienceDaily

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