We have cultured myogenic cells derived from primary explants and a cell line (L6) in a lipid-depleted medium (LDM) and produced large alterations of the fatty acyl and polar headgroup composition and of the cellular sterol levels. These alterations were produced by altering the composition of the media as follows: removing biotin and providing exogenous fatty acid; removing choline and providing exogenous ethanolamine or choline analogues; and by adding 25-OH cholesterol, an inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarate (HMG)-CoA reductase. Relatively small, secondary alterations of other lipid classes accompany the large primary alteration. In general, they are not obviously compensatory for the primary alteration by retaining some physical property. We have explored the influence of these lipid alterations on myoblast proliferation and fusion into myotubes. In general, considerable variability appears tolerated, but there also appear to be limits. Long-term cultures grown in media containing a single fatty acid do not proliferate indefinitely, and the fatty acid does not become the sole fatty acyl component of the phospholipids. This phenomenon is also observed for cultures enriched in phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) or phosphatidyldimethylethanolamine (PDME). The influence of the lipid alterations on fusion is particularly interesting. The inclusion of 25-OH cholesterol inhibits fusion. Enrichment of the fatty acyl chains with elaidate or the polar headgroups with PE also inhibits fusion, but in contrast to that by 25-OH cholesterol, a significant fraction of the myoblasts are aligned and interacting with each other. Oleate enrichment enhances the rate of fusion.

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