The myogenic basic helix-loop-helix regulatory factors (MRFs) maintain commitment of proliferating cells to the skeletal myogenic lineage, and contribute to activation of transcription of muscle-specific genes in myocytes and muscle fibers. A clear role for any or all of the MRFs in muscle fiber-type determination, however, has not emerged from expression or genetic studies. During fetal, neonatal and adult life, diversification of muscle fiber types, and the dynamics of slow or fast fiber type adaptation and growth, are controlled by exogenous factors, including innervation, work load, and hormonal signaling. In contrast, stereotypical development of muscle fibers preferentially expressing slow or fast isoforms of sarcomeric proteins in the embryo occurs in the absence of these factors, and appears to be mediated both by input from the surrounding interstitial milieu, as well by cell autonomous mechanisms. We report here that diversification of myogenic cells in culture towards the expression of fast or slow skeletal muscle fiber types can be determined by the activity and dose of at least one MRF, myogenin. The dose of myogenin is modulated by two parameters: the phosphorylation state of the transcriptional activation domains, and the level of expression. Low doses of myogenin promoted a fast phenotype, whereas higher doses promoted a slow phenotype, and further studies suggested that diversification is mediated by both transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. The potential for dose or numeration signaling by basic helix-loop-helix regulators has been revealed by studies in Drosophila melanogaster, while the present results support the notion that this mechanism may be more commonly employed to generate subdiversity among developing cell types.
- Cultured myogenic cells
- Fast-twitch fiber
- Muscle development
- Myogenic basic helix-loop-helix regulators
- Slow-twitch fiber