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Development. 1996 Nov;122(11):3371-80.

Identification of separate slow and fast muscle precursor cells in vivo, prior to somite formation.

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  • 1Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403, USA.


We have examined the development of specific muscle fiber types in zebrafish axial muscle by labeling myogenic precursor cells with vital fluorescent dyes and following their subsequent differentiation and fate. Two populations of muscle precursors, medial and lateral, can be distinguished in the segmental plate by position, morphology and gene expression. The medial cells, known as adaxial cells, are large, cuboidal cells adjacent to the notochord that express myoD. Surprisingly, after somite formation, they migrate radially away from the notochord, becoming a superficial layer of muscle cells. A subset of adaxial cells develop into engrailed-expressing muscle pioneers. Adaxial cells differentiate into slow muscle fibers of the adult fish. We have named the lateral population of cells in the segmental plate, lateral presomitic cells. They are smaller, more irregularly shaped and separated from the notochord by adaxial cells; they do not express myoD until after somite formation. Lateral presomitic cells remain deep in the myotome and they differentiate into fast muscle fibers. Thus, slow and fast muscle fiber types in zebrafish axial muscle arise from distinct populations of cells in the segmental plate that develop in different cellular environments and display distinct behaviors.

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