Expression of the extracellular fatty acid binding protein (Ex-FABP) during muscle fiber formation in vivo and in vitro

Chiara Gentili, Silvia Cermelli, Carlo Tacchetti, Giulio Cossu, Ranieri Cancedda, Fiorella Descalzi Cancedda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report that Ex-FABP, an extracellular protein belonging to the lipocalin family and involved in the extracellular transport of long-chain fatty acids, is expressed in the forming myotubes both in vivo and in vitro. The presence of the protein and of the mRNA was observed in newly formed myotubes at early stages of chick embryo development by immunohistochemistry and by in situ hybridization. At later stages of development myofibers still expressed both the mRNA and the protein. Ex-FABP expression was observed also in the developing myocardium and the muscular layer of large blood vessels. In agreement with these findings, an initial expression of the mRNA and protein secretion by cultured chicken myoblasts were observed only after the onset of myoblast fusion. Double-immunofluorescence staining of these cultured cells revealed that multinucleate myotubes were stained by antibodies directed against both the Ex-FABP and the sarcomeric myosin, whereas immature myotubes and single myoblasts were not. When added to cultured myoblasts, antibodies against the Ex-FABP induced a strong enhancement of the production of the same protein. In all experiments some cell sufferance and a transient impairment of myotube formation were also observed. The finding that the continuous removal of the Ex-FABP from the culture medium of myoblasts, due to the formation of immune complexes, resulted in an overproduction of the protein suggests a feedback (autocrine) control during myotube differentiation and maturation. We propose that the requirement for increased transport and metabolism of free fatty acid released from the membrane phospholipids and storage lipids, mediated by Ex- FABP, may be essential during differentiation of multinucleated myotubes or that an increased local demand of fatty acids and metabolites may act as a local hormone in tissues differentiating and undergoing morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-418
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 1998


  • Fatty acid
  • Lipocalin
  • Myogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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