While over a dozen I-Z-I proteins are expressed in postmitotic myoblasts and myotubes it is unclear how, when, or where these first assemble into transitory I-Z-I bodies (thin filament/Z-band precursors) and, a short time later, into definitive I-Z-I bands. By double-staining the growth tips of transfected myotubes expressing (a) MYC-tagged s-alpha-actinins (MYC/s-alpha-actinins) or (b) green fluorescent protein-tagged titin cap (GFP/T-cap) with antibodies against MYC and I-Z-I band proteins, we found that the de novo assembly of I-Z-I bodies and their maturation into I-Z-I bands involved relatively concurrent, cooperative binding and reconfiguration of, at a minimum, 5 integral Z-band molecules. These included s-alpha-actinin, nebulin, titin, T-cap and alpha-actin. Resolution of the approximately 1.0 microm polarized alpha-actin/nebulin/tropomyosin/troponin thin filament complexes occurred subsequent to the maturation of Z-bands into a dense tetragonal configuration. Of particular interest is finding that mutant MYC/s-alpha-actinin peptides (a) lacking spectrin-like repeats 1–4, or consisting of spectrin-like repeats 1–4 only, as well as (b) mutants/fragments lacking titin or alpha-actin binding sites, were promptly and exclusively incorporated into de novo assembling I-Z-I bodies and definitive I-Z-I bands as was exogenous full length MYC/s-alpha-actinin or GFP/T-cap.

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