Satellite cells of adult muscle are quiescent myogenic stem cells that can be induced to enter the cell cycle by an extract of crushed muscle (Bischoff, R. 1986. Dev. Biol. 115:140-147). Here, evidence is presented that the extract acts transiently to commit cells to enter the cell cycle. Satellite cells associated with both live and killed rat myofibers in culture were briefly exposed to muscle extract and the increase in cell number was determined at 48 h in vitro, before the onset of fusion. An 8-12-h exposure to extract with killed, but not live, myofibers was sufficient to produce maximum proliferation of satellite cells. Continuous exposure for over 40 h was needed to sustain proliferation of satellite cells on live myofibers. The role of serum factors was also studied. Neither serum nor muscle extract alone was able to induce proliferation of satellite cells. In the presence of muscle extract, however, satellite cell proliferation was directly proportional to the concentration of serum in the medium. These results suggest that mitogens released from crushed muscle produce long-lasting effects that commit quiescent satellite cells to divide, whereas serum factors are needed to maintain progression through the cell cycle. Contact with a viable myofiber modulates the response of satellite cells to growth factors.

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