The cloning and expression of myogenin, a gene regulating myogenesis

Diane Gray Edmondson, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Expression of the differentiated skeletal muscle phenotype is a process that appears to occur in at least two stages. First, pluripotent stem cells become committed to the myogenic lineage. Although undifferentiated and capable of continued proliferation, determined myoblasts are restricted to a single developmental fate. Upon receiving the appropriate environmental signals, these determined myoblasts withdraw from the cell cycle, fuse to form multi-nucleated myotubes, and begin to express a battery of muscle-specific gene products that make up the functional and contractile apparatus of the muscle. This project is aimed at the identification and characterization of factors that control the determination and differentiation of myogenic cells. We have cloned a cDNA, called myogenin, that plays an important role in these processes. Myogenin is expressed exclusively in skeletal muscle in vivo and myogenic cell lines in vitro. Its expression is sharply upregulated during differentiation. When constitutively expressed in fibroblasts, myogenin converts these cells to the myogenic lineage. Transfected cells behave as myogenic tissue culture cells with respect to the genes they express, the way they respond to environmental cues, and are capable of fusing to form multinucleated myotubes. Sequence analysis showed that this cDNA has homology to a family of transcription factors in a region of 72 amino acids known as the basic helix-loop-helix motif. This domain appears to mediate binding to a DNA sequence element known as an E-box (CANNTG) essential for the activity of the enhancers of many muscle-specific genes. Analysis of myogenin in tissue culture cells showed that its expression is responsive to many of the environmental cues, such as the presence of growth factors and oncogenes, that modulate myogenesis. In an attempt to identify the cis- and trans-elements that control myogenin expression and thereby understand what factors are responsible for the establishment of the myogenic lineage, we have cloned the myogenin gene. After analysis of the gene structure, we constructed a series of reporter constructs from the 5$\prime$ upstream sequence of the myogenin gene to determine which cis-acting sequences might be important in myogenin regulation. We found that 184 nucleotides of the 5$\prime$ sequence was sufficient to direct high-level muscle-specific expression of the reporter gene. Two sequence elements present in the 184 fragment, an E-box and a MEF-2 site, have been shown previously to be important in muscle-specific transcription. Mutagenesis of these sites revealed that both sites are necessary for full activity of the myogenin promoter, and suggests that a complex hierarchy of transcription factors control myogenic differentiation.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Edmondson, Diane Gray, "The cloning and expression of myogenin, a gene regulating myogenesis" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9417561.