The dystrophin-glycoprotein complex and the vinculin-talin-integrin system constitute, together a protein machinery, called costameres. The dystrophin-glycoprotein complex contains, among other proteins, also dystrophin and the sarcoglycans subcomplex, proteins playing a key role in the pathogenesis of many muscular dystrophies and linking the cytoplasmic myofibrillar contractile elements to the signal transducing molecules of the extracellular matrix, also providing structural support to the sarcolemma. The vinculin-talin-integrin system connects some components of the extracellular matrix with intermediate filaments of desmin, forming transverse bridges between Z and M lines. In our previous reports we always studied these systems by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). In this paper we report on the first applications of optical near-field fluorescence microscopy to the spatial localization of α-sarcoglycan and β1D-integrin in human skeletal muscle fibres in order to better compare and test the images obtained with conventional CLSM and with scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM). In addition, the analysis of the surface morphology, and the comparison with the fluorescence map is put forward and analyzed for the first time on human muscle fibres. In aperture-SNOM the sample is excited through the nanometre-scale aperture produced at the apex of an optical fibre after tapering and subsequent metal coating. The acquisition of the topography map, simultaneously to the optical signal, by SNOM, permits to exactly overlap the fluorescence images obtained from the two consecutive scans needed for the double localization. Besides, the differences between the topography and the optical spatial patterns permit to assess the absence of artefacts in the fluorescence maps. Although the SNOM represented a good method of analysis, this technique remains a complementary method to the CLSM and it can be accepted in order to confirm the hypothesis advanced by CLSM.
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