Anatomisches Institut der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany.
Skeletal muscle precursors for the limbs originate from the epithelial layer of the somites, the dermomyotomes. We summarize the steps of limb muscle development from the specification of precursor cells in the dermomyotome, the directed migration of these cells to and within the limb buds to muscle growth and differentiation. All steps are controlled by local signaling between embryonic structures. In dermomyotome development, signals from the neural tube, the ectoderm and the intermediate and lateral mesoderm result in a medio-lateral patterning. Only the lateral portions of the dermomyotomes give rise to muscle precursor cells destined to enter the limb buds. As a prerequisite for migration, precursor cells have to de-epithelialize as a result of interactions between SF/HGF and its receptor c-met. Precursor cells adopt a mesenchymal morphology without losing their myogenic specification. This is achieved by the expression of the transcription factors Pax3, Pax7 and myf5. During migration, premature differentiation has to be kept at bay to enable motility and proliferation. After having reached their target sites, the dorsal and ventral myogenic zones, myogenesis is initiated by the activation of the muscle determination factors MyoD, myogenin and MRF4. Finally, we briefly summarize the process of muscle hypertrophy and regeneration during which aspects of developmental processes are reinitiated.