Desmin fulfils important functions in maintenance of muscle cells and mutations in the desmin gene have been linked to a variety of myopathies. To ascertain the role of desmin's amino-terminal domain in muscle cells we generated embryonic stem cells constitutively expressing desminΔ1-48in a null background and investigated muscle cell development in vitro. DesminΔ1-48lacking the first 48 amino acid residues promotes fusion of myoblasts, rescues myogenesis and down-regulates vimentin expression in embryoid bodies, but hampers cardiomyogenesis and blocks smooth muscle development. These results demonstrate that desmin's amino-terminus has different roles in skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle cell development and function. © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. on behalf of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies.
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