[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have examined the role of two RSRF/MEF2 proteins in the onset of skeletal and cardiac muscle differentiation in early Xenopus embryos. In normal development, zygotic expression of SL1 (MEF2D) precedes that of SL2 (MEF2A) by several hours, but neither gene is expressed prior to the accumulation of MyoD and Myf5 transcripts in the somitic mesoderm. Ectopic expression of the myogenic factors in explants of presumptive ectoderm induces expression of both SL1 and SL2, whereas in reciprocal experiments, neither RSRF protein activates the endogenous myoD or Myf5 genes. We conclude that SL1 and SL2 lie downstream of these myogenic factors in the skeletal myogenic pathway. SL1 is distinguished from SL2 in being expressed in the presumptive heart region of the early tailbud embryo, prior to detection of any markers for cardiac muscle differentiation. Furthermore, ectopic SL1 induces the expression of an endogenous cardiac muscle-specific myosin light-chain (XMLC2) gene in cultured blastula animal pole explants, whereas SL2 has no comparable effect. These results demonstrate that in addition to a possible role in skeletal myogenesis, SL1 also acts in vivo as a regulator of cardiac muscle-specific transcription.
Full-text · Article · Jul 1994 · Genes & Development
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The amphibian embryo provides a convenient experimental system with which to study myogenesis. The earliest steps in the formation of axial and cardiac muscle are accessible for investigation using both embryological and molecular approaches. We review the origins of skeletal and cardiac muscle in the Xenopus embryo, the molecular markers available to detect muscle differentiation, and the use of embryo explants to investigate the regulation of myogenesis.
No preview · Article · May 1994 · Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have isolated a cDNA fragment encoding a portion of the myosin heavy chain alpha-isoform (XMHC alpha) in the amphibian, Xenopus laevis. The XMHC alpha transcript is highly enriched in adult heart RNA and is expressed exclusively in embryonic heart tissue. It therefore provides a tissue-specific marker for cardiac muscle differentiation during early embryogenesis. Using an RNAase protection assay, we can detect the onset of cardiac muscle differentiation in an anterior, ventral region of tailbud embryos, many hours before the appearance of a beating heart. Whole-mount in situ RNA hybridisation indicates that expression of the XMHC alpha gene is restricted to the developing heart primordium. XMHC alpha gene expression can also be induced in isolated animal pole explants of blastulae by treatment with the growth factor, activin A. Induction is dose-dependent, requiring high doses of the growth factor compared with that required for myotomal (skeletal) muscle differentiation. In contrast, no XMHC alpha transcripts are detected in explants incubated with basic FGF, despite the induction of myotomal muscle differentiation. Activin-induced explants show a similar temporal pattern of XMHC alpha gene expression to that found in normal embryogenesis. Furthermore, cells expressing this gene appear clustered in one or two foci within fused explant aggregates, which often show regular, spontaneous contractions after several days in culture. These results show that terminal differentiation of cardiac muscle can occur in growth factor-induced explants and may be distinguished from skeletal muscle differentiation by the dose and nature of the inducing factor.