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Current methods of isolation of muscle satellite cells from different animal species are highly variable making inter-species comparisons problematic. This variation mainly stems from the use of different proteolytic enzymes to release the satellite cells from the muscle tissue (sometimes a single enzyme is used but often a combination of enzymes is preferred) and the different extracellular matrix proteins used to coat culture ware. In addition, isolation of satellite cells is frequently laborious and sometimes may require pre-plating of the cell preparation on uncoated flasks or Percoll centrifugation to remove contaminating fibroblasts. The methodology employed to isolate and culture satellite cells in vitro can critically determine the fusion of myoblasts into multi-nucleated myotubes. These terminally differentiated myotubes resemble mature myofibres in the muscle tissue in vivo, therefore optimal fusion is a keystone of in vitro muscle culture. Hence, a simple method of muscle satellite cell isolation and culture of different vertebrate species that can result in a high fusion rate is highly desirable.
We demonstrate here a relatively simple and rapid method of isolating highly enriched muscle satellite cells from different avian and mammalian species. In brief, muscle tissue was mechanically dissociated, digested with a single enzyme (pronase), triturated with a 10-ml pipette, filtered and directly plated onto collagen coated flasks. Following this method and after optimization of the cell culture conditions, excellent fusion rates were achieved in the duck, chicken, horse and cow (with more than 50% cell fusion), and to a lesser extent pig, pointing to pronase as a highly suitable enzyme to release satellite cells from muscle tissue.
Our simplified method presents a quick and simple alternative to isolating highly enriched muscle satellite cell cultures which can subsequently rapidly differentiate into well developed primary myotubes. The use of the same isolation protocol allows better inter-species comparisons of muscle satellite cells. Of all the farm animal species investigated, harvested chicken muscle cells showed the highest percentage of muscle satellite cells, and equine muscle cells presented the highest fusion index, an impressive≈77%. Porcine cells displayed the lowest amount of satellite cells but still achieved a modest fusion rate of≈41%.