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Dev Biol. 2007 Feb 1;302(1):267-80. Epub 2006 Sep 26.

Tendon-muscle crosstalk controls muscle bellies morphogenesis, which is mediated by cell death and retinoic acid signaling.

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Departamento de Anatomía y Biología Celular, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Cantabria, C/Cardenal Herrera Oria s/n, Santander, Spain.


Vertebrate muscle morphogenesis is a complex developmental process, which remains quite yet unexplored at cellular and molecular level. In this work, we have found that sculpturing programmed cell death is a key morphogenetic process responsible for the formation of individual foot muscles in the developing avian limb. Muscle fibers are produced in excess in the precursor dorsal and ventral muscle masses of the limb bud and myofibers lacking junctions with digital tendons are eliminated via apoptosis. Microsurgical experiments to isolate the developing muscles from their specific tendons are consistent with a role for tendons in regulating survival of myogenic cells. Analysis of the expression of Raldh2 and local treatments with retinoic acid indicate that this signaling pathway mediates apoptosis in myogenic cells, appearing also involved in tendon maturation. Retinoic acid inhibition experiments led to defects in muscle belly segmentation and myotendinous junction formation. It is proposed that heterogeneous local distribution of retinoids controlled through Raldh2 and Cyp26A1 is responsible for matching the fleshy and the tendinous components of each muscle belly.

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