The technique of erythrocyte-mediated microinjection has been successfully adapted for use with cultured muscle cells. Erythrocytes were fused with primary chick myotube cultures with poly(ethylene glycol), and fluorescent antibodies to haemoglobin demonstrated that this protein was injected into the sarcoplasm of myotubes. The microinjection treatment did not significantly alter protein metabolism in the muscle cells as monitored by rates of synthesis and degradation of muscle proteins. 125I-labelled ribonuclease A and bovine serum albumin were degraded with the expected exponential decay kinetics after microinjection into muscle cells, and the half-life of ribonuclease A (40 h) was approximately twice that of bovine serum albumin (17 h). The degradation of ribonuclease A in the muscle cells was enhanced 1.6-fold in the absence of horse serum and chick-embryo extract, whereas the degradation of bovine serum albumin was not altered during deprivation. These results are characteristic of the breakdown of microinjected ribonuclease A and bovine serum albumin in other cell types. Therefore, our experiments indicate the erythrocyte-mediated microinjection is a valid technique to study protein degradation in primary chick muscle cultures.

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