Time course and side-by-side analysis of mesodermal, pre-myogenic, myogenic and differentiated cell markers in the chicken model for skeletal muscle formation

Federica Berti, Julia Meireles Nogueira, Svenja Wohrle, Debora Rodrigues Sobreira, Katarzyna Hawrot, Susanne Dietrich

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The chicken is a well-established model for amniote (including human) skeletal muscle formation because the developmental anatomy of chicken skeletal muscle matches that of mammals. The accessibility of the chicken in the egg as well as the sequencing of its genome and novel molecular techniques have raised the profile of this model. Over the years, a number of regulatory and marker genes have been identified that are suited to monitor the progress of skeletal myogenesis both in wildtype and in experimental embryos. However, in the various studies, differing markers at different stages of development have been used. Moreover, contradictory results on the hierarchy of regulatory factors are now emerging, and clearly, factors need to be able to cooperate. Thus, a reference paper describing in detail and side-by-side the time course of marker gene expression during avian myogenesis is needed. We comparatively analysed onset and expression patterns of the key markers for the chicken immature paraxial mesoderm, for muscle-competent cells, for cells committed to myogenesis and for cells entering terminal differentiation. We performed this analysis from stages when the first paraxial mesoderm is being laid down to the stage when mesoderm formation comes to a conclusion. Our data show that, although the sequence of marker gene expression is the same at the various stages of development, the timing of the expression onset is quite different. Moreover, marker gene expression in myogenic cells being deployed from the dorsomedial and ventrolateral lips of the dermomyotome is different from those being deployed from the rostrocaudal lips, suggesting different molecular programs. Furthermore, expression of Myosin Heavy Chain genes is overlapping but different along the length of a myotube. Finally, Mef2c is the most likely partner of Mrf proteins, and, in contrast to the mouse and more alike frog and zebrafish fish, chicken Mrf4 is co-expressed with MyoG as cells enter terminal differentiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-382
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015


  • Cdh4
  • chicken embryo
  • dermomyotome
  • Desmin
  • Eya1
  • Follistatin
  • Mef2 genes
  • Mrf4
  • Myf5
  • Myh15
  • Myh7
  • MyoD
  • MyoG
  • myotome
  • paraxial mesoderm
  • Paraxis
  • Pax3
  • Pax7
  • Pitx3
  • sarcomeric Myosin
  • Six1
  • skeletal muscle
  • somite
  • Tbx6
  • Tnni1


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