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Cell Death Differ. 2008 Jan;15(1):94-104. Epub 2007 Oct 12.

The homeobox gene Arx is a novel positive regulator of embryonic myogenesis.

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  • 1Stem Cell Research Institute, Dibit, H. San Raffaele, Via Olgettina 58, Milan, Italy.


Skeletal muscle fibers form in overlapping, but distinct phases that depend on the generation of temporally different lineages of myogenic cells. During primary myogenesis (E10.5-E12.5 in the mouse), embryonic myoblasts fuse homotypically to generate primary fibers, whereas during later development (E14.5-E17.5), fetal myoblasts differentiate into secondary fibers. How these myogenic waves are regulated remains largely unknown. Studies have been hampered by the lack of markers which would distinguish embryonic from fetal myoblast populations. We show here that the homeobox gene Arx is strongly expressed in differentiating embryonic muscle, downstream of myogenic basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) genes. Its expression progressively decreases during development. When overexpressed in the C2C12 myogenic cell line, Arx enhances differentiation. Accordingly, it stimulates the transcriptional activity from the Myogenin promoter and from multimerized E-boxes when co-expressed with MyoD and Mef2C in CH310T1/2. Furthermore, Arx co-immunoprecipitates with Mef2C, suggesting that it participates in the transcriptional regulatory network acting in embryonic muscle. Finally, embryonic myoblasts isolated from Arx-deficient embryos show a delayed differentiation in vivo together with an enhanced clonogenic capacity in vitro. We propose here that Arx acts as a novel positive regulator of embryonic myogenesis by synergizing with Mef2C and MyoD and by establishing an activating loop with Myogenin.

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