The Z-band in vertebrate striated muscle crosslinks actin filaments of opposite polarity from adjoining sarcomeres and transmits tension along myofibrils during muscular contraction. It is also the location of a number of proteins involved in signalling and myofibrillogenesis; mutations in these proteins lead to myopathies. Understanding the high-resolution structure of the Z-band will help us understand its role in muscle contraction and the role of these proteins in the function of muscle. The appearance of the Z-band in transverse-section electron micrographs typically resembles a small-square lattice or a basketweave appearance. In longitudinal sections, the Z-band width varies more with muscle type than species: slow skeletal and cardiac muscles have wider Z-bands than fast skeletal muscles. As the Z-band is periodic, Fourier methods have previously been used for three-dimensional structural analysis. To cope with variations in the periodic structure of the Z-band, we have used subtomogram averaging of tomograms of rat cardiac muscle in which subtomograms are extracted and compared and similar ones are averaged. We show that the Z-band comprises four to six layers of links, presumably α-actinin, linking antiparallel overlapping ends of the actin filaments from the adjoining sarcomeres. The reconstruction shows that the terminal 5-7 nm of the actin filaments within the Z-band is devoid of any α-actinin links and is likely to be the location of capping protein CapZ.
Burgoyne, T., Morris, E. P., & Luther, P. K. (2015). Three-Dimensional Structure of Vertebrate Muscle Z-Band: The Small-Square Lattice Z-Band in Rat Cardiac Muscle. Journal of Molecular Biology, 427(22), 3527–3537. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2015.08.018