Studies on regulation of skeletal muscle differentiation by growth factors

Jingshan Hu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Skeletal muscle differentiation involves sequential events in which proliferating undifferentiated myoblasts withdraw from the cell cycle and fuse to form multinucleated myotubes. The process of fusion is accompanied by the disappearance of proteins associated with cell proliferation and the coordinate induction of a battery of muscle-specific gene products, which includes the muscle isoenzyme of creatine kinase, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, and contractile proteins such as alpha-actin. The molecular events associated with myogenesis are particularly amenable to experimental analysis because the events which occur in vivo can be recapitulated in vitro using established muscle cell lines. Initiation of myogenic differentiation in vitro can be achieved by removing serum from the culture medium. Myogenesis, therefore, can be considered to be regulated through a repression-type of mechanism by components in serum. The objectives of this project were to identify the components involved in regulation of myogenesis and approach the mechanism(s) whereby these components achieve their regulatory function. Initially, the effects of a series of polypeptide growth factors on myogenesis were examined. Among them TGF$\beta$ and FGF were found to be potent inhibitors of myogenic differentiation which did not affect cell proliferation. The inhibitory effects of these growth factors on differentiation requires their persistent presence in the culture medium. After myoblasts have undergone fusion, they become refractory to the inhibitory effects of TGF$\beta$, FGF, and serum. When fusion is inhibited by the presence of EGTA, a Ca$\sp{2+}$ chelator, muscle-specific genes are expressed reversibly upon removal of inhibitory growth factors. Subsequent exposure of biochemically differentiated cells to serum or TGF$\beta$ leads to down-regulation of muscle-specific genes. Stimulation with serum also leads to reentry of myocytes into the cell cycle, whereas fused myotubes are irreversibly and terminally differentiated. Measurement of levels of TGF$\beta$ receptors reveals that under non-fusing conditions, TGF$\beta$ receptor levels in biochemically differentiated myocytes remained as high as in undifferentiated myoblasts, while during terminal differentiation, TGF$\beta$ receptors decreased at least five-fold. Thus, down-regulation of TGF$\beta$ receptors is coupled to irreversible differentiation, but not reversible differentiation in the absence of fusion. The possible involvement of second messenger systems, such as cAMP and protein kinase C, in the pathway(s) by which TGF$\beta$, FGF, or serum factors transduce their signals from the cell surface to the nucleus was also examined. The results showed that myogenic differentiation is subject to negative regulation through cAMP elevation-dependent and cAMP elevation-independent pathways and that serum mitogens, TGF$\beta$ and FGF inhibit differentiation through a mechanism independent of cAMP-elevation or protein kinase C activation.

Subject Area

Biomedical research|Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

Hu, Jingshan, "Studies on regulation of skeletal muscle differentiation by growth factors" (1989). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9015717.