Specification of the myogenic phenotype in somites was examined in the early chick embryo using organotypic explant cultures stained with monoclonal antibodies to myosin heavy chain. It was found that myogenic specification (formation of muscle fibers in explants of somites or segmental plates cultured alone) does not occur until Hamburger and Hamilton stage 11 (12-14 somites). At this stage, only the somites in the rostral half of the embryo are myogenically specified. By Hamburger and Hamilton stage 12 (15-17 somites), the three most caudal somites were not specified to be myogenic while most or all of the more rostral somites are specified to myogenesis. Somites from older embryos (stage 13-15, 18-26 somites) showed the same pattern of myogenic specification--all but the three most caudal somites were specified. We investigated the effects of the axial structures, the notochord and neural tube, on myogenic specification. Both the notochord and neural tube were able to induce myogenesis in unspecified somites. In contrast, the neural tube, but not the notochord, was able to induce myogenesis in explants of segmental plate, a structure which is not myogenic when cultured alone. When explants of specified somites were stained with antibodies to slow or fast MyHC, it was found that myofiber diversity (fast and fast slow fibers) was established very early in development (as early as Hamburger and Hamilton stage 11). We also found fiber diversity in explants of unspecified somites (the three most caudal somites from stage 11 to 15) when they were recombined with notochord or neural tube. We conclude that myogenic specification in the embryo results in diverse fiber types and is an inductive process which is mediated by factors produced by the neural tube and notochord.
View details for Web of Science ID A1994NT55500009
View details for PubMedID 8050355