The first skeletal muscle fibers to form in vertebrate embryos appear in the somitic myotome. PCR analysis and in situ hybridization with isoform-specific probes reveal differences in the temporal appearance and spatial distribution of fast and slow myosin heavy chain mRNA transcripts within myotomal fibers. Embryonic fast myosin heavy chain was the first isoform expressed, followed rapidly by slow myosin heavy chains 1 and 3, with slow myosin heavy chain 2 appearing several hours later. Neonatal fast myosin heavy chain is not expressed in myotomal fibers. Although transcripts of embryonic fast myosin heavy chain were always distributed throughout the length of myotomal fibers, the mRNA for each slow myosin heavy chain isoform was initially restricted to the centrally located myotomal fiber nuclei. As development proceeded, slow myosin heavy chain transcripts spread throughout the length of myotomal fibers in order of their appearance. Explants of segments from embryos containing neural tube, notochord and somites 7-10, when incubated overnight, become innervated by motor neurons from the neural tube and express all four myosin heavy chain genes. Removal of the neural tube and/or notochord from explants prior to incubation or addition of d-tubocurare to intact explants prevented expression of slow myosin chain 2 but expression of genes encoding the other myosin heavy chain isoforms was unaffected. Thus, expression of slow myosin heavy chain 2 is dependent on functional innervation, whereas expression of embryonic fast and slow myosin heavy chain 1 and 3 are innervation independent. Implantation of sonic-hedgehog-soaked beads in vivo increased the accumulation of both fast and slow myosin heavy chain transcripts, as well as overall myotome size and individual fiber size, but had no effect on myotomal fiber phenotype. Transcripts encoding embryonic fast myosin heavy chain first appear ventrolaterally in the myotome, whereas slow myosin heavy chain transcripts first appear in fibers positioned midway between the ventrolateral and dorsomedial lips of the myotome. Therefore, models of epaxial myotome formation must account for the positioning of the oldest fibers in the more ventral-lateral region of the myotome and the youngest fibers in the dorsomedial region.
View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.00541
View details for Web of Science ID 000184830700004
View details for PubMedID 12810587