We have examined the expression of 13 proto-oncogenes in proliferating and terminally differentiated cardiac and skeletal muscle. Total RNA was prepared from intact ventricular cardiac-muscle tissue and from purified ventricular cardiac-muscle cells of neonatal and adult rats and from cultured proliferating and terminally differentiated L6A1 rat skeletal-muscle cells. cDNA probes for histone H4, thymidine kinase, myosin heavy chain and M-creatine kinase were used to assess cellular proliferation and differentiation. Oncogenes c-myc, c-raf, c-erb-A, c-ras-H, c-ski, and c-sis were expressed in both proliferating and differentiated cardiac muscle tissue and cells, whereas c-myb expression was not observed in either. c-src was expressed only in neonatal cardiac muscle tissue and cells. c-fms, c-abl, and c-ras-K were expressed in tissue from both neonatal and adult animals but only in purified cells from neonatal animals. c-fes/fps was expressed only in neonatal cardiac muscles cells. c-fos expression was not observed in cardiac-muscle tissue from either neonatal or adult rats, but surprisingly was abundantly expressed in freshly isolated cardiac-muscle cells from animals of both ages. These results emphasize that biochemical analysis using intact cardiac-muscle tissue may not necessarily reflect muscle-specific cell processes. They also show that the expression of c-fos can be activated by the cell isolation procedure. c-myc, c-ski, c-ras-H, c-ras-K, c-abl, c-raf and c-erb-A were expressed in both proliferating and terminally differentiated skeletal-muscle cells, whereas c-myb, c-fos, c-src and c-fms transcripts were observed only in proliferating cells. c-fes/fps and c-sis were not expressed in dividing or fused skeletal-muscle cells. These results demonstrate unique tissue and cell-specific patterns of proto-oncogene expression and suggest that these genes may be involved with the regulation of cellular proliferation and terminal differentiation in striated muscle.

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