Ontogeny of Skeletal Muscle Cells

  • G. Cossu
Part of the Topics in Neuroscience book series (TOPNEURO)


The differentiation of skeletal muscle is an early and crucial step in the development of vertebrates since it provides the embryo with motility in the early stages.Skeletal myogenesis begins shortly after gastrulation but persists, at least in mammals, until the end of postnatal growth, and the potential for myogenesis continues for the entire life span of the animal [1]. Local signalling commits mesodermal cells to a myogenic fate, and shortly afterwards they begin to synthesise contractile proteins that accumulate in the cytoplasm and self-assemble into sarcomeres. Motility is dependent upon shortening of the sarcomeres, paracrystalline structures that are specialised for transforming chemical energy into movement. The advantage of accumulating millions of sarcomeres within a single cytoplasm has led to multinucleation, a different strategy from the coupling of single cells adopted by the heart. Within the highly structured cytoplasm of the multinucleated muscle fibre mitosis is no longer possible, and when experimentally induced by oncogenes it leads to disruption of the spindle and death (mitotic catastrophe). As a consequence, growth of the muscle fibre during fetal and postnatal development depends upon the addition of single cells, which must be instructed on when to divide and when to differentiate, by fusing either with pre-existing fibres or among themselves to generate a new fibre. It is therefore obvious that diversification of myogenic cell fate is as crucial as their commitment.


Satellite Cell Skeletal Muscle Cell Sonic Hedgehog Myogenic Cell Paraxial Mesoderm 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Cossu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Stem Cell Research Institute, San Raffaele Scientific InstituteMilan
  2. 2.Department of Histology and Medical Embryology“La Sapienza” UniversityRomeItaly

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