The water-holding capacity (WHC), and toughness (shear force) of chicken gizzard were evaluated during postmortem storage for 4.5, 7, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96 h at 4 degrees C. Degradation of the cytoskeletal proteins desmin, talin and vinculin were monitored by sodium dodecyl sulfate - polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and Western blotting during the same designated storage period. The WHC of the gizzards decreased significantly from 12 h to 72 h of storage, but by 96 h the WHC was restored to the level measured after storage for 12 h. The shear force value of the gizzards increased rapidly until 12 h and then decreased until 24 h, with a further slight decrease by 48 h. Degradation products of desmin, talin and vinculin appeared at 96 h, 12 h and 48 h postmortem, respectively. The intensity of immunolabeling for desmin, talin and vinculin after storage for 96 h decreased to 51%, 25% and 52% of the initial value. The appearance of desmin degradation products was accompanied by an increase in WHC. This suggests that the postmortem degradation of desmin is involved in the increase of WHC in chicken gizzard during storage at 4 degrees C, and talin and vinculin may be involved.