Mice with a targeted mutation in the myogenic basic helix-loop-helix regulatory protein myogenin have severe muscle defects resulting in perinatal death. In this report, the effect of myogenin's absence on embryonic and fetal development is investigated. The initial events of somite differentiation occurred normally in the myogenin-mutant embryos. During primary myogenesis, muscle masses in mutant embryos developed simultaneously with control siblings, although muscle differentiation within the mutant muscle masses was delayed. More dramatic effects were observed when secondary myofibers form. During this time, very little muscle formation took place in the mutants, suggesting that the absence of myogenin affected secondary myogenesis more severely than primary myogenesis. Monitoring mutant neonates with fiber type-specific myosin isoforms indicated that different fiber types were present in the residual muscle. No evidence was found to indicate that myogenin was required for the formation of muscle in one region of the embryo and not another. The expression patterns of a MyoD-lacZ transgene in myogenin-mutant embryos demonstrated that myogenin was not essential for the activation of the MyoD gene. Together, these results indicate that late stages of embryogenesis are more dependent on myogenin than early stages, and that myogenin is not required for the initial aspects of myogenesis, including myotome formation and the appearance of myoblasts.

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