Jamb and Jamc are an essential cell surface receptor pair that interact to drive fusion between muscle precursor cells during zebrafish development.
Cellular fusion is required in the development of several tissues, including skeletal muscle. In vertebrates, this process is poorly understood and lacks an in vivo-validated cell surface heterophilic receptor pair that is necessary for fusion. Identification of essential cell surface interactions between fusing cells is an important step in elucidating the molecular mechanism of cellular fusion. We show here that the zebrafish orthologues of JAM-B and JAM-C receptors are essential for fusion of myocyte precursors to form syncytial muscle fibres. Both jamb and jamc are dynamically co-expressed in developing muscles and encode receptors that physically interact. Heritable mutations in either gene prevent myocyte fusion in vivo, resulting in an overabundance of mononuclear, but otherwise overtly normal, functional fast-twitch muscle fibres. Transplantation experiments show that the Jamb and Jamc receptors must interact between neighbouring cells (in trans) for fusion to occur. We also show that jamc is ectopically expressed in prdm1a mutant slow muscle precursors, which inappropriately fuse with other myocytes, suggesting that control of myocyte fusion through regulation of jamc expression has important implications for the growth and patterning of muscles. Our discovery of a receptor-ligand pair critical for fusion in vivo has important implications for understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for myocyte fusion and its regulation in vertebrate myogenesis.
The fusion of precursor cells is a crucial step in many biological processes, one of which is the development of skeletal muscle. The molecular and cell biology of fusion of muscle precursors has been well described in Drosophila melanogaster larvae, leading to insights into the process in vertebrates. However, the identity and mechanism of action of essential cell surface proteins for fusion between vertebrate muscle precursors has previously been lacking. Here, we describe a vertebrate-specific cell surface receptor pair that is essential for fusion in zebrafish: Jamb and Jamc. Loss of function of either receptor causes a near-complete block in fusion, resulting in an overabundance of mononucleate muscle fibres that are otherwise overtly normal. We demonstrate that Jamb and Jamc physically interact and are co-expressed by muscle precursors. Moreover, we show that the interaction between them is essential for fusion between neighbouring precursors in an embryo. We hypothesise that binding of Jamb to Jamc is a necessary recognition and adhesion step permissive for, but not sufficient to cause, myocyte fusion. Knowledge of these molecular components in vertebrates will lead to better understanding of how fusion is controlled to pattern skeletal muscle tissue.