Myotome adaptability confers developmental robustness to somitic myogenesis in response to fibre number alteration

Shukolpa D Roy, Victoria C Williams, Tapan Pipalia, Kuoyu Li, Christina L Hammond, Stefanie Knappe, Robert D Knight, Simon M Hughes

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13 Citations (Scopus)
229 Downloads (Pure)


Balancing the number of stem cells and their progeny is crucial for tissue development and repair. Here we examine how cell numbers and overall muscle size are tightly regulated during zebrafish somitic muscle development. Muscle stem/precursor cell (MPCs) expressing Pax7 are initially located in the dermomyotome (DM) external cell layer, adopt a highly stereotypical distribution and thereafter a proportion of MPCs migrate into the myotome. Regional variations in the proliferation and terminal differentiation of MPCs contribute to growth of the myotome. To probe the robustness of muscle size control and spatiotemporal regulation of MPCs, we compared the behaviour of wild type (wt) MPCs with those in mutant zebrafish that lack the muscle regulatory factor Myod. Myod(fh261) mutants form one third fewer multinucleate fast muscle fibres than wt and show a significant expansion of the Pax7(+) MPC population in the DM. Subsequently, myod(fh261) mutant fibres generate more cytoplasm per nucleus, leading to recovery of muscle bulk. In addition, relative to wt siblings, there is an increased number of MPCs in myod(fh261) mutants and these migrate prematurely into the myotome, differentiate and contribute to the hypertrophy of existing fibres. Thus, homeostatic reduction of the excess MPCs returns their number to normal levels, but fibre numbers remain low. The GSK3 antagonist BIO prevents MPC migration into the deep myotome, suggesting that canonical Wnt pathway activation maintains the DM in zebrafish, as in amniotes. BIO does not, however, block recovery of the myod(fh261) mutant myotome, indicating that homeostasis acts on fibre intrinsic growth to maintain muscle bulk. The findings suggest the existence of a critical window for early fast fibre formation followed by a period in which homeostatic mechanisms regulate myotome growth by controlling fibre size. The feedback controls we reveal in muscle help explain the extremely precise grading of myotome size along the body axis irrespective fish size, nutrition and genetic variation and may form a paradigm for wider matching of organ size.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Early online date5 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2017


  • muscle
  • zebrafish
  • myosin
  • myod
  • myogenin
  • pax7


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