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1.  In vivo dynamics of skeletal muscle Dystrophin in zebrafish embryos revealed by improved FRAP analysis 
eLife  null;4:e06541.
Dystrophin forms an essential link between sarcolemma and cytoskeleton, perturbation of which causes muscular dystrophy. We analysed Dystrophin binding dynamics in vivo for the first time. Within maturing fibres of host zebrafish embryos, our analysis reveals a pool of diffusible Dystrophin and complexes bound at the fibre membrane. Combining modelling, an improved FRAP methodology and direct semi-quantitative analysis of bleaching suggests the existence of two membrane-bound Dystrophin populations with widely differing bound lifetimes: a stable, tightly bound pool, and a dynamic bound pool with high turnover rate that exchanges with the cytoplasmic pool. The three populations were found consistently in human and zebrafish Dystrophins overexpressed in wild-type or dmdta222a/ta222a zebrafish embryos, which lack Dystrophin, and in Gt(dmd-Citrine)ct90a that express endogenously-driven tagged zebrafish Dystrophin. These results lead to a new model for Dystrophin membrane association in developing muscle, and highlight our methodology as a valuable strategy for in vivo analysis of complex protein dynamics.
eLife digest
A protein called Dystrophin plays a key role in maintaining the structural integrity of muscle cells as they contract and relax. Mutations in the gene that encodes Dystrophin can cause several different types of muscular dystrophy, a group of diseases in which muscle progressively weakens. Some mutations in Dystrophin can lead to mild symptoms that may affect the quality of life but are not life threatening. However, in more serious cases, patients lose the ability to walk in childhood and have shortened life expectancy. There is no cure for these diseases, and there are still big gaps in our understanding of how Dystrophin works, which makes it more difficult to develop efficient therapies.
The zebrafish is often used as a model to study muscular dystrophies. In this study, Bajanca et al. introduced human Dystrophin into zebrafish muscle cells and analysed its behaviour using a combination of mathematical modelling and a method known as ‘fluorescence recovery after photobleaching’. In these experiments, the human Dystrophin was attached to a tag that fluoresces green under a microscope, which allowed it to be easily seen and be followed in real time inside the cells of live animals.
Bajanca et al. observed that Dystrophin could either remain firmly associated with the membrane that surrounds the cell over long periods of time or interact briefly with the membrane. Bajanca et al. carried out further experiments with the Dystrophin protein naturally found in zebrafish and observed that it behaved in a similar manner to the human protein, suggesting this behaviour is likely to be important for the ability of the protein to work.
Bajanca et al.'s findings reveal that Dystrophin displays complex behaviour in living muscle cells. The fact that some Dystrophin molecules are firmly attached to the membrane support previous findings that this protein provides mechanical stability to the cells. However, the discovery that there is a group of more mobile Dystrophin molecules within muscle cells suggests that this protein may also play other roles. Therefore, these findings open a new avenue for research that may contribute to the development of new therapy approaches in future.
PMCID: PMC4601390  PMID: 26459831
Dystrophin; muscle; binding dynamics; diffusion; FRAP; software; zebrafish
2.  Signals and myogenic regulatory factors restrict pax3 and pax7 expression to dermomyotome-like tissue in zebrafish 
Developmental biology  2006;302(2):504-521.
Pax3/7 paired homeodomain transcription factors are important markers of muscle stem cells. Pax3 is required upstream of myod for lateral dermomyotomal cells in the amniote somite to form particular muscle cells. Later Pax3/7-dependent cells generate satellite cells and most body muscle. Here we analyse early myogenesis from, and regulation of, a population of Pax3-expressing dermomyotome-like cells in the zebrafish. Zebrafish pax3 is widely expressed in the lateral somite and, along with pax7, becomes restricted anteriorly and then to the external cells on the lateral somite surface. Midline-derived Hedgehog signals appear to act directly on lateral somite cells to repress Pax3/7. Both Hedgehog and Fgf8, signals that induce muscle formation within the somite, suppress Pax3/7 and promote expression of myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) myf5 and myod in specific muscle precursor cell populations. Loss of MRF function leads to loss of myogenesis by specific populations of muscle fibres, with parallel up-regulation of Pax3/7. Myod is required for lateral fast muscle differentiation from pax3-expressing cells. In contrast, either Myf5 or Myod is sufficient to promote slow muscle formation from adaxial cells. Thus, myogenic signals act to drive somite cells to a myogenic fate through up-regulation of distinct combinations of MRFs. Our data show that the relationship between Pax3/7 genes and myogenesis is evolutionarily ancient, but that changes in the MRF targets for particular signals contribute to myogenic differences between species.
PMCID: PMC3960072  PMID: 17094960
Pax3; Pax7; muscle; zebrafish; hedgehog; somite; fgf8; dermomyotome; myf5; myod; col1a2; dlx2a; sox10
3.  Vestigial-like-2b (VITO-1b) and Tead-3a (Tef-5a) expression in zebrafish skeletal muscle, brain and notochord 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2007;7(8):827-836.
The vestigial gene has been shown to control skeletal muscle formation in Drosophila and the related Vestigial-like 2 (Vgl-2) protein plays a similar role in mice. Vgl-family proteins are thought to regulate tissue-specific gene expression by binding to members of the broadly expressed Scalloped/Tef/TEAD transcription factor family. Zebrafish have at least four Vgl genes, including two Vgl-2s, and at least three TEAD genes, including two Tead3s. We describe the cloning and expression of one member from each family in the zebrafish. A novel gene, vgl-2b, with closest homology to mouse and human vgl-2, is expressed transiently in nascent notochord and in muscle fibres as they undergo terminal differentiation during somitogenesis. Muscle cells also express a TEAD-3 homologue, a possible partner of Vgl-2b, during myoblast differentiation and early fibre assembly. Tead3a is also expressed in rhombomeres, eye and epiphysis regions.
PMCID: PMC3360971  PMID: 17916448
muscle; adaxial; zebrafish; vestigial-like; transcription enhancer factor; TEAD domain
4.  Anaesthetic Tricaine Acts Preferentially on Neural Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels and Fails to Block Directly Evoked Muscle Contraction 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103751.
Movements in animals arise through concerted action of neurons and skeletal muscle. General anaesthetics prevent movement and cause loss of consciousness by blocking neural function. Anaesthetics of the amino amide-class are thought to act by blockade of voltage-gated sodium channels. In fish, the commonly used anaesthetic tricaine methanesulphonate, also known as 3-aminobenzoic acid ethyl ester, metacaine or MS-222, causes loss of consciousness. However, its role in blocking action potentials in distinct excitable cells is unclear, raising the possibility that tricaine could act as a neuromuscular blocking agent directly causing paralysis. Here we use evoked electrical stimulation to show that tricaine efficiently blocks neural action potentials, but does not prevent directly evoked muscle contraction. Nifedipine-sensitive L-type Cav channels affecting movement are also primarily neural, suggesting that muscle Nav channels are relatively insensitive to tricaine. These findings show that tricaine used at standard concentrations in zebrafish larvae does not paralyse muscle, thereby diminishing concern that a direct action on muscle could mask a lack of general anaesthesia.
PMCID: PMC4121177  PMID: 25090007
5.  Mef2s are required for thick filament formation in nascent muscle fibres 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2007;134(13):2511-2519.
During skeletal muscle differentiation, the actomyosin motor is assembled into myofibrils, multiprotein machines that generate and transmit force to cell ends. How expression of muscle proteins is coordinated to build the myofibril is unknown. Here we show that zebrafish Mef2d and Mef2c proteins are required redundantly for assembly of myosin-containing thick filaments in nascent muscle fibres, but not for the earlier steps of skeletal muscle fibre differentiation, elongation, fusion or thin filament gene expression. Mef2d mRNA and protein is present in myoblasts, whereas mef2c expression commences in muscle fibres. Knockdown of both Mef2 proteins with antisense morpholino oligonucleotides or in mutant fish blocks muscle function and prevents sarcomere assembly. Cell transplantation and heat-shock-driven rescue reveal a cell autonomous requirement for Mef2 within fibres. In nascent fibres, Mef2 drives expression of genes encoding thick, but not thin, filament proteins. Among genes analysed, myosin heavy and light chains and myosin binding protein C require Mef2 for normal expression, whereas actin, tropomyosin and troponin do not. Our findings show that Mef2 controls skeletal muscle formation after terminal differentiation and define a new maturation step in vertebrate skeletal muscle development at which thick filament gene expression is controlled.
PMCID: PMC3016612  PMID: 17537787
Mef2c; Mef2d; hoover; myosin; muscle; zebrafish; myofibril; somite; tnnc; myogenin; prdm1; eng2a; acta1; actc; smyhc1; myhz1; tpma; smbpc; hsp90a
6.  Mrf4 (myf6) is dynamically expressed in differentiated zebrafish skeletal muscle 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2007;7(7):738-745.
Mrf4 (Myf6) is a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) myogenic regulatory transcription factor (MRF) family which also contains Myod, Myf5 and myogenin. Mrf4 is implicated in commitment of amniote cells to skeletal myogenesis and is also abundantly expressed in many adult muscle fibres. The specific role of Mrf4 is unclear both because mrf4 null mice are viable, suggesting redundancy with other MRFs, and because of genetic interactions at the complex mrf4/myf5 locus. We report the cloning and expression of an mrf4 gene from zebrafish, Danio rerio, which shows conservation of linkage to myf5. Mrf4 mRNA accumulates in a subset of terminally differentiated muscle fibres in parallel with myosin protein in the trunk and fin. Although most, possibly all, trunk muscle expresses mrf4, the level of mRNA is dynamically regulated. No expression is detected in muscle precursor cell populations prior to myosin accumulation. Moreover, mrf4 expression is not detected in head muscles, at least at early stages. As fish mature, mrf4 expression is pronounced in slow muscle fibres.
PMCID: PMC3001336  PMID: 17638597
mrf4; muscle; zebrafish; muscle pioneers; muscle fibre; fin; myod; myogenin; mylz2; gene expression, craniofacial
7.  Zebrafish Mef2ca and Mef2cb are essential for both first and second heart field cardiomyocyte differentiation 
Developmental biology  2012;369(2):199-210.
Mef2 transcription factors have been strongly linked with early heart development. D-mef2 is required for heart formation in Drosophila, but whether Mef2 is essential for vertebrate cardiomyocyte (CM) differentiation is unclear. In mice, although Mef2c is expressed in all CMs, targeted deletion of Mef2c causes lethal loss of second heart field (SHF) derivatives and failure of cardiac looping, but first heart field CMs can differentiate. Here we examine Mef2 function in early heart development in zebrafish. Two Mef2c genes exist in zebrafish, mef2ca and mef2cb. Both are expressed similarly in the bilateral heart fields but mef2cb is strongly expressed in the heart poles at the primitive heart tube stage. By using fish mutants for mef2ca and mef2cb and antisense morpholinos to knock down either or both Mef2cs, we show that Mef2ca and Mef2cb have essential but redundant roles in myocardial differentiation. Loss of both Mef2ca and Mef2cb function does not interfere with early cardiogenic markers such as nkx2.5, gata4 and hand2 but results in a dramatic loss of expression of sarcomeric genes and myocardial markers such as bmp4, nppa, smyd1b and late nkx2.5 mRNA. Rare residual CMs observed in mef2ca;mef2cb double mutants are ablated by a morpholino capable of knocking down other Mef2s. Mef2cb over-expression activates bmp4 within the cardiogenic region, but no ectopic CMs are formed. Surprisingly, anterior mesoderm and other tissues become skeletal muscle. Mef2ca single mutants have delayed heart development, but form an apparently normal heart. Mef2cb single mutants have a functional heart and are viable adults. Our results show that the key role of Mef2c in myocardial differentiation is conserved throughout the vertebrate heart.
PMCID: PMC3927553  PMID: 22750409
Second heart field; mef2c; mef2ca; mef2cb; mef2a; Heart; Hand2; Myl7; bulbus arteriosus; outflow tract; cardiomyocyte; differentiation
8.  eIF4EBP3L Acts as a Gatekeeper of TORC1 In Activity-Dependent Muscle Growth by Specifically Regulating Mef2ca Translational Initiation 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(10):e1001679.
Muscle activity promotes muscle growth through the TOR-4EBP pathway by controlling the translation of specific mRNAs, including Mef2ca, a muscle transcription factor required for normal growth.
Muscle fiber size is activity-dependent and clinically important in ageing, bed-rest, and cachexia, where muscle weakening leads to disability, prolonged recovery times, and increased costs. Inactivity causes muscle wasting by triggering protein degradation and may simultaneously prevent protein synthesis. During development, muscle tissue grows by several mechanisms, including hypertrophy of existing fibers. As in other tissues, the TOR pathway plays a key role in promoting muscle protein synthesis by inhibition of eIF4EBPs (eukaryotic Initiation Factor 4E Binding Proteins), regulators of the translational initiation. Here, we tested the role of TOR-eIF4EBP in a novel zebrafish muscle inactivity model. Inactivity triggered up-regulation of eIF4EBP3L (a zebrafish homolog of eIF4EBP3) and diminished myosin and actin content, myofibrilogenesis, and fiber growth. The changes were accompanied by preferential reduction of the muscle transcription factor Mef2c, relative to Myod and Vinculin. Polysomal fractionation showed that Mef2c decrease was due to reduced translation of mef2ca mRNA. Loss of Mef2ca function reduced normal muscle growth and diminished the reduction in growth caused by inactivity. We identify eIF4EBP3L as a key regulator of Mef2c translation and protein level following inactivity; blocking eIF4EBP3L function increased Mef2ca translation. Such blockade also prevented the decline in mef2ca translation and level of Mef2c and slow myosin heavy chain proteins caused by inactivity. Conversely, overexpression of active eIF4EBP3L mimicked inactivity by decreasing the proportion of mef2ca mRNA in polysomes, the levels of Mef2c and slow myosin heavy chain, and myofibril content. Inhibiting the TOR pathway without the increase in eIF4EBP3L had a lesser effect on myofibrilogenesis and muscle size. These findings identify eIF4EBP3L as a key TOR-dependent regulator of muscle fiber size in response to activity. We suggest that by selectively inhibiting translational initiation of mef2ca and other mRNAs, eIF4EBP3L reprograms the translational profile of muscle, enabling it to adjust to new environmental conditions.
Author Summary
Most genes are transcribed into mRNA and then translated into proteins that function in various cellular processes. Initiation of mRNA translation is thus a fundamental control point in gene expression. Working in a zebrafish model, we have found that muscle activity (or inactivity) can differentially regulate the translation of specific mRNAs and thereby control the growth of skeletal muscle. Emerging evidence suggests that control of translational initiation of particular mRNAs by an intracellular signaling pathway acting through TORC1 is a major regulator of cell growth and function. We show here that muscle activity both activates the TORC1 pathway and suppresses the expression of a downstream TORC1 target—the translational inhibitor eIF4EBP3L. This removes a brake on translation of certain mRNAs. Conversely, we show that muscle inactivity can up-regulate this translational inhibitor, thereby causing reduced translation of these mRNAs. One of the mRNAs targeted in this manner by eIF4EBP3L is Mef2ca, which encodes a transcription factor that promotes assembly of muscle contractile apparatus. Our work thus reveals a mechanism by which muscle growth can be differentially influenced depending on the context of muscle activity (or lack thereof). If this pathway operates in people, it may help explain how exercise regulates muscle growth and performance.
PMCID: PMC3797031  PMID: 24143132
9.  Notch Signalling Is Required for the Formation of Structurally Stable Muscle Fibres in Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68021.
Accurate regulation of Notch signalling is central for developmental processes in a variety of tissues, but its function in pectoral fin development in zebrafish is still unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we show that core elements necessary for a functional Notch pathway are expressed in developing pectoral fins in or near prospective muscle territories. Blocking Notch signalling at different levels of the pathway consistently leads to the formation of thin, wavy, fragmented and mechanically weak muscles fibres and loss of stress fibres in endoskeletal disc cells in pectoral fins. Although the structural muscle genes encoding Desmin and Vinculin are normally transcribed in Notch-disrupted pectoral fins, their proteins levels are severely reduced, suggesting that weak mechanical forces produced by the muscle fibres are unable to stabilize/localize these proteins. Moreover, in Notch signalling disrupted pectoral fins there is a decrease in the number of Pax7-positive cells indicative of a defect in myogenesis.
We propose that by controlling the differentiation of myogenic progenitor cells, Notch signalling might secure the formation of structurally stable muscle fibres in the zebrafish pectoral fin.
PMCID: PMC3695967  PMID: 23840804
10.  Muscular expressions: profiling genes in complex tissues 
Genome Biology  2001;2(12):reviews1033.1-reviews1033.3.
Gene-expression profiling has yielded important information about simple systems, but complex tissues have not yet been widely profiled. Four recent studies of mammalian skeletal muscles have added to the catalogs of their gene expression differences, but have yet to lead to better understanding of the molecular processes underlying their physiological differences.
PMCID: PMC138993  PMID: 11790260
11.  Other model organisms for sarcomeric muscle diseases 
Model organisms are vital to our understanding of human muscle biology and disease. The potential of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster and the zebrafish, Danio rerio, as model genetic organisms for the study of human muscle disease is discussed by examining their muscle biology, muscle genetics and development. The powerful genetic tools available with each organism are outlined. It is concluded that these organisms have already demonstrated potential in facilitating the study of muscle disease and in screening for therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3360967  PMID: 19181102
12.  Dystrobrevin and dystrophin family gene expression in zebrafish 
Dystrophin/dystrobrevin superfamily proteins play structural and signalling roles at the plasma membrane of many cell types. Defects in them or the associated multiprotein complex cause a range of neuromuscular disorders. Members of the dystrophin branch of the family form heterodimers with members of the dystrobrevin branch, mediated by their coiled-coil domains. To determine which combinations of these proteins might interact during embryonic development, we set out to characterise the gene expression pattern of dystrophin and dystrobrevin family members in zebrafish. γ-dystrobrevin (dtng), a novel dystrobrevin recently identified in fish, is the predominant form of dystrobrevin in embryonic development. Dtng and dmd (dystrophin) have similar spatial and temporal expression patterns in muscle, where transcripts are localized to the ends of differentiated fibres at the somite borders. Dtng is expressed in the notochord while dmd is expressed in the chordo-neural hinge and then in floor plate and hypochord. In addition, dtng is dynamically expressed in rhombomeres 2 and 4-6 of the hindbrain and in the ventral midbrain. α-dystrobrevin (dtna) is expressed widely in the brain with particularly strong expression in the hypothalamus and the telencephalon; drp2 is also expressed widely in the brain. Utrophin expression is found in early pronephros and lateral line development and utrophin and dystrophin are both expressed later in the gut. β-dystrobrevin (dtnb) is expressed in the pronephric duct and widely at low levels. In summary, we find clear instances of co-expression of dystrophin and dystrobrevin family members in muscle, brain and pronephric duct development and many examples of strong and specific expression of members of one family but not the other, an intriguing finding given the presumed heterodimeric state of these molecules.
PMCID: PMC3360968  PMID: 18042440
muscle; zebrafish; notochord; midbrain; rhombomere; gene expression; utrophin; dystrophin; dystrobrevin; drp2; dystrotelin
13.  Defective cranial skeletal development, larval lethality and haploinsufficiency in Myod mutant zebrafish 
Developmental biology  2011;358(1):102-112.
Myogenic regulatory factors of the myod family (MRFs) are transcription factors essential for mammalian skeletal myogenesis. Here we show that a mutation in the zebrafish myod gene delays and reduces early somitic and pectoral fin myogenesis, reduces miR-206 expression, and leads to a persistent reduction in somite size until at least the independent feeding stage. A mutation in myog, encoding a second MRF, has little obvious phenotype at early stages, but exacerbates the loss of somitic muscle caused by lack of Myod. Mutation of both myod and myf5 ablates all skeletal muscle. Haploinsufficiency of myod leads to reduced embryonic somite muscle bulk. Lack of Myod causes a severe reduction in cranial musculature, ablating most muscles including the protractor pectoralis, a putative cucullaris homologue. This phenotype is accompanied by a severe dysmorphology of the cartilaginous skeleton and failure of maturation of several cranial bones, including the opercle. As myod expression is restricted to myogenic cells, the data show that myogenesis is essential for proper skeletogenesis in the head.
PMCID: PMC3360969  PMID: 21798255
muscle; zebrafish; myosin; slow; fiber; fast; myod; myogenin; myf5; miR-206; skeleton; bone; cartilage; head; fin; haploinsufficiency
14.  Cdkn1c drives muscle differentiation through a positive feedback loop with Myod 
Developmental biology  2010;350(2):464-475.
Differentiation often requires conversion of analogue signals to a stable binary output through positive feedback. Hedgehog (Hh) signalling promotes myogenesis in the vertebrate somite, in part by raising the activity of muscle regulatory factors (MRFs) of the Myod family above a threshold. Hh is known to enhance MRF expression. Here we show that Hh is also essential at a second step that increases Myod protein activity, permitting it to promote Myogenin expression. Hh acts by inducing expression of cdkn1c (p57Kip2) in slow muscle precursor cells, but neither Hh nor Cdkn1c is required for their cell cycle exit. Cdkn1c co-operates with Myod to drive differentiation of several early zebrafish muscle fibre types. Myod in turn up-regulates cdkn1c, thereby providing a positive feedback loop that switches myogenic cells to terminal differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3044464  PMID: 21147088
muscle; Cdkn1c; zebrafish; Hedgehog; myod; myog; p57kip2
15.  Nerve-dependent changes in skeletal muscle myosin heavy chain after experimental denervation, cross-reinnervation and in a demyelinating mouse model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A 
Muscle & nerve  2008;38(6):1572-1584.
Innervation regulates the contractile properties of vertebrate muscle fibers, in part through the effect of electrical activity on expression of distinct myosins. Here we analyse the role of innervation in regulating the accumulation of the general, maturational and adult forms of rodent slow myosin heavy chain (MyHC) that are defined by the presence of distinct antigenic epitopes. Denervation increases the number of fibers that express general slow MyHC, but it decreases the adult slow MyHC epitope. Cross-reinnervation of slow muscle by a fast nerve leads to an increase in the number of fibers that express fast MyHC. In both cases, there is an increase in fibers that express slow and fast IIA MyHCs but without the adult slow MyHC epitope. The data suggest that innervation is required for maturation and maintenance of diversity of both slow and fast fibers. The sequence of slow MyHC epitope transitions is a useful biomarker, and it may play a significant role during nerve-dependent changes in muscle fiber function. We applied this detailed muscle analysis to a transgenic mouse model of Human Motor and Sensory Neuropathy IA, also known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Type 1A (CMT1A), in which electrical conduction in some motor neurons is poor due to demyelination. The mice display atrophy of some muscle fibers and changes in slow and fast MyHC epitope expression suggestive of a progressive increase in innervation of muscle fibers by fast motor neurons, even at early stages. The potential role of these early changes in disease pathogenesis is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3008217  PMID: 19016545
Muscle; myosin; human motor and sensory neuropathy IA; denervation; innervation; fast; slow; type I; type II; fiber type; antibody; post-translational modification; demyelination
16.  Sequential actions of Pax3 and Pax7 drive xanthophore development in zebrafish neural crest 
Developmental biology  2008;317(2):508-522.
The Pax3/7 gene family has a fundamental and conserved role during neural crest formation. In people, PAX3 mutation causes Waardenburg syndrome, and murine Pax3 is essential for pigment formation. However, it is unclear exactly how Pax3 functions within the neural crest. Here we show that pax3 is expressed before other pax3/7 members, including duplicated pax3b, pax7 and pax7b genes, early in zebrafish neural crest development. Knockdown of Pax3 protein by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides results in defective fate specification of xanthophores, with complete ablation in the trunk. Other pigment lineages are specified and differentiate. As a consequence of xanthophore loss, expression of pax7, a marker of the xanthophore lineage, is reduced in neural crest. Morpholino knockdown of Pax7 protein shows that Pax7 itself is dispensable for xanthophore fate specification, although yellow pigmentation is reduced. Loss of xanthophores after reduction of Pax3 correlates with a delay in melanoblast differentiation followed by significant increase in melanophores, suggestive of a Pax3-driven fate switch within a chromatophore precursor or stem cell. Analysis of other neural crest derivatives reveals that, in the absence of Pax3, the enteric nervous system is ablated from its inception. Therefore, Pax3 in zebrafish is required for specification of two specific lineages of neural crest, xanthophores and enteric neurons.
PMCID: PMC3005709  PMID: 18417109
Pax3; Pax7; Pax3b; Pax7b; sox10; foxd3; dct; gch; xdh; csf1r; mitfa; zebrafish; neural crest; pigmentation; xanthophores; melanophore; enteric nervous system
17.  Development of mandibular, hyoid and hypobranchial muscles in the zebrafish: homologies and evolution of these muscles within bony fishes and tetrapods 
During vertebrate head evolution, muscle changes accompanied radical modification of the skeleton. Recent studies have suggested that muscles and their innervation evolve less rapidly than cartilage. The freshwater teleostean zebrafish (Danio rerio) is the most studied actinopterygian model organism, and is sometimes taken to represent osteichthyans as a whole, which include bony fishes and tetrapods. Most work concerning zebrafish cranial muscles has focused on larval stages. We set out to describe the later development of zebrafish head muscles and compare muscle homologies across the Osteichthyes.
We describe one new muscle and show that the number of mandibular, hyoid and hypobranchial muscles found in four day-old zebrafish larvae is similar to that found in the adult. However, the overall configuration and/or the number of divisions of these muscles change during development. For example, the undivided adductor mandibulae of early larvae gives rise to the adductor mandibulae sections A0, A1-OST, A2 and Aω, and the protractor hyoideus becomes divided into dorsal and ventral portions in adults. There is not always a correspondence between the ontogeny of these muscles in the zebrafish and their evolution within the Osteichthyes. All of the 13 mandibular, hyoid and hypobranchial muscles present in the adult zebrafish are found in at least some other living teleosts, and all except the protractor hyoideus are found in at least some extant non-teleost actinopterygians. Of these muscles, about a quarter (intermandibularis anterior, adductor mandibulae, sternohyoideus) are found in at least some living tetrapods, and a further quarter (levator arcus palatini, adductor arcus palatini, adductor operculi) in at least some extant sarcopterygian fish.
Although the zebrafish occupies a rather derived phylogenetic position within actinopterygians and even within teleosts, with respect to the mandibular, hyoid and hypobranchial muscles it seems justified to consider it an appropriate representative of these two groups. Among these muscles, the three with clear homologues in tetrapods and the further three identified in sarcopterygian fish are particularly appropriate for comparisons of results between the actinopterygian zebrafish and the sarcopterygians.
PMCID: PMC2270811  PMID: 18307809
18.  MyoD- and nerve-dependent maintenance of MyoD expression in mature muscle fibres acts through the DRR/PRR element 
MyoD is a transcription factor implicated in the regulation of adult muscle gene expression. Distinguishing the expression of MyoD in satellite myoblasts and muscle fibres has proved difficult in vivo leading to controversy over the significance of MyoD expression within adult innervated muscle fibres. Here we employ the MD6.0-lacZ transgenic mouse, in which the 6 kb proximal enhancer/promoter (DRR/PRR) of MyoD drives lacZ, to show that MyoD is present and transcriptionally active in many adult muscle fibres.
In culture, MD6.0-lacZ expresses in myotubes but not myogenic cells, unlike endogenous MyoD. Reporter expression in vivo is in muscle fibre nuclei and is reduced in MyoD null mice. The MD6.0-lacZ reporter is down-regulated both in adult muscle fibres by denervation or muscle disuse and in cultured myotubes by inhibition of activity. Activity induces and represses MyoD through the DRR and PRR, respectively. During the postnatal period, accumulation of β-galactosidase correlates with maturation of innervation. Strikingly, endogenous MyoD expression is up-regulated in fibres by complete denervation, arguing for a separate activity-dependent suppression of MyoD requiring regulatory elements outside the DRR/PRR.
The data show that MyoD regulation is more complex than previously supposed. Two factors, MyoD protein itself and fibre activity are required for essentially all expression of the 6 kb proximal enhancer/promoter (DRR/PRR) of MyoD in adult fibres. We propose that modulation of MyoD positive feedback by electrical activity determines the set point of MyoD expression in innervated fibres through the DRR/PRR element.
PMCID: PMC2259323  PMID: 18215268
19.  The dystrotelin, dystrophin and dystrobrevin superfamily: new paralogues and old isoforms 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:19.
Dystrophins and dystrobrevins are distantly related proteins with important but poorly understood roles in the function of metazoan muscular and neuronal tissues. Defects in them and their associated proteins cause a range of neuromuscular disorders. Members of this superfamily have been discovered in a relatively serendipitous way; we set out to compile a comprehensive description of dystrophin- and dystrobrevin-related sequences from available metazoan genome sequences, validated in representative organisms by RT-PCR, or acquired de novo from key species.
Features of the superfamily revealed by our survey include: a) Dystrotelin, an entirely novel branch of the superfamily, present in most vertebrates examined. Dystrotelin is expressed in the central nervous system, and is a possible orthologue of Drosophila DAH. We describe the preliminary characterisation of its function, evolution and expression. b) A novel vertebrate member of the dystrobrevin family, γ-dystrobrevin, an ancient branch now extant only in fish, but probably present in our own ancestors. Like dystrophin, zebrafish γ-dystrobrevin mRNA is localised to myosepta. c) The extent of conservation of alternative splicing and alternative promoter use in the dystrophin and dystrobrevin genes; alternative splicing of dystrophin exons 73 and 78 and α-dystrobrevin exon 13 are conserved across vertebrates, as are the use of the Dp116, Dp71 and G-utrophin promoters; the Dp260 and Dp140 promoters are tetrapod innovations. d) The evolution of the unique N-terminus of DRP2 and its relationship to Dp116 and G-utrophin. e) A C-terminally truncated common ancestor of dystrophin and utrophin in cyclostomes. f) A severely restricted repertoire of dystrophin complex components in ascidians.
We have refined our understanding of the evolutionary history and isoform diversity of the five previously reported vertebrate superfamily members and describe two novel members, dystrotelin and γ-dystrobrevin. Dystrotelins, dystrophins and dystrobrevins are roughly equally related to each other. Vertebrates therefore have a repertoire of seven superfamily members (three dystrophins, three dystrobevins, and one dystrotelin), with one lost in tetrapods. Most invertebrates studied have one member from each branch. Although the basic shared function which is implied by the common architecture of these distantly related proteins remains unclear, it clearly permeates metazoan biology.
PMCID: PMC1790709  PMID: 17233888
20.  Analyses of the differentiation potential of satellite cells from myoD-/-, mdx, and PMP22 C22 mice 
Sporadic and sometimes contradictory studies have indicated changes in satellite cell behaviour associated with the progressive nature of human Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Satellite cell proliferation and number are reportedly altered in DMD and the mdx mouse model. We recently found that satellite cells in MSVski transgenic mice, a muscle hypertrophy model showing progressive muscle degeneration, display a severe ageing-related differentiation defect in vitro. We tested the hypothesis that similar changes contribute to the gradual loss of muscle function with age in mdx and PMP22 mice, a model of human motor and sensory neuropathy type 1A (HMSN1A).
Single extensor digitorum longus muscle fibres were cultured from mdx and PMP22 mice and age- and genetic background-matched controls. Mice at several ages were compared with regard to the differentiation of satellite cells, assayed as the proportion of desmin-expressing cells that accumulated sarcomeric myosin heavy chain.
Satellite cells of 2 month, 6 month, and 12 month old mdx mice were capable of differentiating to a similar extent to age-matched wild type control animals in an in vitro proliferation/differentiation model. Strikingly, differentiation efficiency in individual 6 month and 12 month old mdx animals varies to a much higher extent than in age-matched controls, younger mdx animals, or PMP22 mice. In contrast, differentiation of myoblasts from all myoD null mice assayed was severely impaired in this assay system. The defect in satellite cell differentiation that occurs in some mdx animals arises from a delay in differentiation that is not overcome by IGF-1 treatment at any phase of cultivation.
Overall, a defect in satellite cell differentiation above that arising through normal ageing does not occur in mdx or PMP22 mouse models of human disease. Nonetheless, the impaired differentiation of satellite cells from some mdx animals suggests that additional factors, environmental or epigenetic, may lead to deteriorating muscle repair through poor differentiation of satellite cells in genetically predisposed individuals.
PMCID: PMC1079863  PMID: 15762989
21.  Hedgehog can drive terminal differentiation of amniote slow skeletal muscle 
Secreted Hedgehog (Hh) signalling molecules have profound influences on many developing and regenerating tissues. Yet in most vertebrate tissues it is unclear which Hh-responses are the direct result of Hh action on a particular cell type because Hhs frequently elicit secondary signals. In developing skeletal muscle, Hhs promote slow myogenesis in zebrafish and are involved in specification of medial muscle cells in amniote somites. However, the extent to which non-myogenic cells, myoblasts or differentiating myocytes are direct or indirect targets of Hh signalling is not known.
We show that Sonic hedgehog (Shh) can act directly on cultured C2 myoblasts, driving Gli1 expression, myogenin up-regulation and terminal differentiation, even in the presence of growth factors that normally prevent differentiation. Distinct myoblasts respond differently to Shh: in some slow myosin expression is increased, whereas in others Shh simply enhances terminal differentiation. Exposure of chick wing bud cells to Shh in culture increases numbers of both muscle and non-muscle cells, yet simultaneously enhances differentiation of myoblasts. The small proportion of differentiated muscle cells expressing definitive slow myosin can be doubled by Shh. Shh over-expression in chick limb bud reduces muscle mass at early developmental stages while inducing ectopic slow muscle fibre formation. Abundant later-differentiating fibres, however, do not express extra slow myosin. Conversely, Hh loss of function in the limb bud, caused by implanting hybridoma cells expressing a functionally blocking anti-Hh antibody, reduces early slow muscle formation and differentiation, but does not prevent later slow myogenesis. Analysis of Hh knockout mice indicates that Shh promotes early somitic slow myogenesis.
Taken together, the data show that Hh can have direct pro-differentiative effects on myoblasts and that early-developing muscle requires Hh for normal differentiation and slow myosin expression. We propose a simple model of how direct and indirect effects of Hh regulate early limb myogenesis.
PMCID: PMC471547  PMID: 15238161
22.  Intermediate filament-co-localized molecules with myosin heavy chain epitopes define distinct cellular domains in hair follicles and epidermis 
BMC Cell Biology  2003;4:10.
Proteins linking intermediate filaments to other cytoskeletal components have important functions in maintaining tissue integrity and cell shape.
We found a set of monoclonal antibodies raised against specific human sarcomeric myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms labels cells in distinct regions of the mammalian epidermis. The antigens co-localize with intermediate filament-containing structures. A slow MyHC-related antigen is punctate on the cell surface and co-localizes with desmoplakin at desmosomal junctions of all suprabasal epidermal layers from rat fœtal day 16 onwards, in the root sheath of the hair follicle and in intercalated disks of cardiomyocytes. A fast MyHC-related antigen occurs in cytoplasmic filaments in a subset of basal cells of skin epidermis and bulb, but not neck, of hair follicles. A fast IIA MyHC-related antigen labels filaments of a single layer of cells in hair bulb. This 230 000 Mr antigen co-purifies with keratin. No obvious candidate for any of the antigens appears in the literature.
We describe a set of molecules that co-localize with intermediate filament in specific cell subsets in epithelial tissues. These antigens presumably influence intermediate filament structure or function.
PMCID: PMC194435  PMID: 12899730
gut; heart; cardiomyocyte; intercalated disk; intermediate filaments; desmosomes.
23.  Myogenin Induces a Shift of Enzyme Activity from Glycolytic to Oxidative Metabolism in Muscles of Transgenic Mice  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;145(3):633-642.
Physical training regulates muscle metabolic and contractile properties by altering gene expression. Electrical activity evoked in muscle fiber membrane during physical activity is crucial for such regulation, but the subsequent intracellular pathway is virtually unmapped. Here we investigate the ability of myogenin, a muscle-specific transcription factor strongly regulated by electrical activity, to alter muscle phenotype. Myogenin was overexpressed in transgenic mice using regulatory elements that confer strong expression confined to differentiated post-mitotic fast muscle fibers. In fast muscles from such mice, the activity levels of oxidative mitochondrial enzymes were elevated two- to threefold, whereas levels of glycolytic enzymes were reduced to levels 0.3–0.6 times those found in wild-type mice. Histochemical analysis shows widespread increases in mitochondrial components and glycogen accumulation. The changes in enzyme content were accompanied by a reduction in fiber size, such that many fibers acquired a size typical of oxidative fibers. No change in fiber type-specific myosin heavy chain isoform expression was observed. Changes in metabolic properties without changes in myosins are observed after moderate endurance training in mammals, including humans. Our data suggest that myogenin regulated by electrical activity may mediate effects of physical training on metabolic capacity in muscle.
PMCID: PMC2185087  PMID: 10225962
enzymes; exercise; gene expression regulation; mitochondria; muscle fibers

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