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The Satellite Cell at 60: The Foundation Years

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S183-S203
JournalJournal of Neuromuscular Diseases
Issue numbers2

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This review is dedicated to the boundlessly inquisitive and enthusiastic Terence A. Partridge on the occasion of his 80th Birthday. Thanks to Zipora Yablonka-Reuveni and Judy Anderson for valuable feedback and to Dawn Cornelison for finding the autographed 1998 program. Elise Engquist is supported by Wellcome Trust 222352/Z/21/Z from 108874/B/15/Z. The Zammit lab is supported by grants from the Medical Research Council to P.S.Z. (MR/P023215/1 and MR/S002472/1), from Muscular Dystrophy UK (RA3/3052), Association Franc¸aise contre les Myopathies (AFM 17865) and the FSH Society (FSHS-82013-06 and FSHS-82017-05). Images are reproduced from published papers as indicated and with permission: Figure 1A - License Number 5057590765121, Fig. 1B -License Number 5057610080932, Fig. 1C - License Number 5057611172253 (at a cost of £75.65 – thanks Springer-Nature), Fig. 2A - License Number 5045410222306, Fig. 2B - License Number 5045410473405, Fig. 2C and 2D - License Number 5045410713875, Fig. 2E and F - Order license ID 1113708-1, Fig. 3A - License Number 5058860350012 (with another £75.65 to Springer-Nature!) and Fig. 3B and C - License Number 5052430512923. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 - The authors. Published by IOS Press.

King's Authors


The resident stem cell for skeletal muscle is the satellite cell. On the 50th anniversary of its discovery in 1961, we described the history of skeletal muscle research and the seminal findings made during the first 20 years in the life of the satellite cell (Scharner and Zammit 2011, doi: 10.1186/2044-5040-1-28). These studies established the satellite cell as the source of myoblasts for growth and regeneration of skeletal muscle. Now on the 60th anniversary, we highlight breakthroughs in the second phase of satellite cell research from 1980 to 2000. These include technical innovations such as isolation of primary satellite cells and viable muscle fibres complete with satellite cells in their niche, together with generation of many useful reagents including genetically modified organisms and antibodies still in use today. New methodologies were combined with description of endogenous satellite cells markers, notably Pax7. Discovery of the muscle regulatory factors Myf5, MyoD, myogenin, and MRF4 in the late 1980s revolutionized understanding of the control of both developmental and regerenative myogenesis. Emergence of genetic lineage markers facilitated identification of satellite cells in situ, and also empowered transplantation studies to examine satellite cell function. Finally, satellite cell heterogeneity and the supportive role of non-satellite cell types in muscle regeneration were described. These major advances in methodology and in understanding satellite cell biology provided further foundations for the dramatic escalation of work on muscle stem cells in the 21st century.

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