The developmental pattern of slow myosin expression has been studied in mouse embryos from the somitic stage to the period of secondary fiber formation and in myogenic cells, cultured from the same developmental stages. The results obtained, using a combination of different polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies, indicate that slow myosin is coexpressed in virtually all the cells that express embryonic (fast) myosin in somites and limb buds in vivo as well as in culture. On the contrary fetal or late myoblasts (from 15-d-old embryos) express in culture only embryonic (fast) myosin. At this stage, muscle cells in vivo, as already shown (Crow, M.T., and F.A. Stockdale. 1986. Dev. Biol. 113:238-254; Dhoot, G.K. 1986. Muscle & Nerve. 9:155-164; Draeger, A., A.G. Weeds, and R.B. Fitzsimons. 1987. J. Neurol. Sci. 81:19-43; Miller, J.B., and F.A. Stockdale. 1986. J. Cell Biol. 103:2197-2208), consist of primary myotubes, which express both myosins, and secondary myotubes, which express preferentially embryonic (fast) myosin. Under no circumstance neonatal or adult fast myosins were detected. Western blot analysis confirmed the immunocytochemical data. These results suggest that embryonic myoblasts in mammals are all committed to the mixed embryonic-(fast) slow lineage and, accordingly, all primary fibers express both myosins, whereas fetal myoblasts mostly belong to the embryonic (fast) lineage and likely generate fibers containing only embryonic (fast) myosin. The relationship with current models of avian myogenesis are discussed.

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