We show by immunohistology that distinct expression patterns of the four muscle regulatory factor (MRF) proteins identify subdomains of mouse somites. Myf-5 and MyoD are, at specific stages, each expressed in both myotome and dermatome cells. Myf-5 expression is initially restricted to dorsal cells in all somites, as is MyoD expression in neck somites. In trunk somites, however, MyoD is initially expressed in ventral cells. Myogenin and MRF4 are restricted to myotome cells, though the MRF4-expressing cells are initially less widely distributed than the myogenin-expressing cells, which are at all stages found throughout the myotome. All somitic myocytes express one or more MRFs. The transiently distinct expression patterns of the four MRF proteins identify dorsal and ventral subdomains of somites, and suggest that skeletal muscle cells in somites originate at multiple sites and via multiple molecular pathways.

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