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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The homeobox gene Msx1 is expressed in a subset of somites, and in muscle progenitor cells migrating into the forelimb.

In myoblast cell cultures, the Msx1 protein is able to repress myogenesis and maintain cells in an undifferentiated and proliferative state. However, there has been no evidence that Msx1 is expressed in muscle or its precursors in vivo. Using mice with the nlacZ gene integrated into the Msx1 locus, we show that the reporter gene is expressed in the lateral dermomyotome of brachial and thoracic somites. Cells from this region will subsequently contribute to forelimb and intercostal muscles. Using Pax3 gene transcripts as a marker of limb muscle progenitor cells as they migrate from the somites, we have defined precisely the somitic origin and timing of cell migration from somites to limb buds in the mouse. Differences in the timing of migration between chick and mouse are discussed. Somites that label for Msx1(nlacZ )transgene expression in the forelimb region partially overlap with those that contribute Pax3-expressing cells to the forelimb. In order to see whether Msx1 is expressed in this migrating population, we have grafted somites from the forelimb level of Msx1(nlacZ )mouse embryos into a chick host embryo. We show that most cells migrating into the wing field express the Msx1(nlacZ )transgene, together with Pax3. In these experiments, Msx1 expression in the somite depends on the axial position of the graft. Wing mesenchyme is capable of inducing Msx1 transcription in somites that normally would not express the gene; chick hindlimb mesenchyme, while permissive for this expression, does not induce it. In the mouse limb bud, the Msx1(nlacZ )transgene is downregulated prior to the activation of the Myf5 gene, an early marker of myogenic differentiation. These observations are consistent with the proposal that Msx1 is involved in the repression of muscle differentiation in the lateral half of the somite and in limb muscle progenitor cells during their migration.[1]


  1. The homeobox gene Msx1 is expressed in a subset of somites, and in muscle progenitor cells migrating into the forelimb. Houzelstein, D., Auda-Boucher, G., Chéraud, Y., Rouaud, T., Blanc, I., Tajbakhsh, S., Buckingham, M.E., Fontaine-Pérus, J., Robert, B. Development (1999) [Pubmed]
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