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Development. 2017 Jan 15;144(2):235-247. doi: 10.1242/dev.138099. Epub 2016 Dec 19.

Ascl2 inhibits myogenesis by antagonizing the transcriptional activity of myogenic regulatory factors.

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Department of Animal Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.
Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.
Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.
Center for Cancer Research, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.
Department of Animal Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA


Myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs), including Myf5, MyoD (Myod1) and Myog, are muscle-specific transcription factors that orchestrate myogenesis. Although MRFs are essential for myogenic commitment and differentiation, timely repression of their activity is necessary for the self-renewal and maintenance of muscle stem cells (satellite cells). Here, we define Ascl2 as a novel inhibitor of MRFs. During mouse development, Ascl2 is transiently detected in a subpopulation of Pax7+ MyoD+ progenitors (myoblasts) that become Pax7+ MyoD- satellite cells prior to birth, but is not detectable in postnatal satellite cells. Ascl2 knockout in embryonic myoblasts decreases both the number of Pax7+ cells and the proportion of Pax7+ MyoD- cells. Conversely, overexpression of Ascl2 inhibits the proliferation and differentiation of cultured myoblasts and impairs the regeneration of injured muscles. Ascl2 competes with MRFs for binding to E-boxes in the promoters of muscle genes, without activating gene transcription. Ascl2 also forms heterodimers with classical E-proteins to sequester their transcriptional activity on MRF genes. Accordingly, MyoD or Myog expression rescues myogenic differentiation despite Ascl2 overexpression. Ascl2 expression is regulated by Notch signaling, a key governor of satellite cell self-renewal. These data demonstrate that Ascl2 inhibits myogenic differentiation by targeting MRFs and facilitates the generation of postnatal satellite cells.


Ascl2; MRF; Myogenic progenitor cell; Repressor; Self-renewal

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