Vianello, S., Brazzoduro, L., Dalla Valle, L., Belvedere, P., and Colombo, L. (2003) Myostatin expression during development and chronic stress in zebrafish (Danio rerio). The Journal of endocrinology. 176(1):47-59.
Myostatin, a member of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily, is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass in mammals. We have studied myostatin expression during embryonic and post-hatching development in zebrafish by semiquantitative RT-PCR. The transcript is present in just-fertilized eggs and declines at 8 h post-fertilization (hpf), suggesting a maternal origin. A secondary rise occurs at 16 hpf, indicating the onset of embryonic transcription at the time of muscle cell differentiation. The level of myostatin mRNA decreases slightly at 24 hpf, when somitogenesis is almost concluded, and rises again at and after hatching, during the period of limited muscle hyperplastic growth that is typical of slow-growing, small fish. In the adult muscle, we found the highest expression of myostatin mRNA and protein, which were detectable by Northern and Western blot analyses respectively. Although only the precursor protein form was revealed in the adult lateral muscle, we demonstrated that zebrafish myostatin is proteolytically processed and secreted in cultured cells, as is its mammalian counterpart. These results suggest that myostatin may play an important regulatory role during myogenesis and muscle growth in fish, as it does in mammals. In chronically stressed fish, grown from 16 days post-fertilization to adulthood in an overcrowded environment, we observed both depression of body growth and a diminished level of myostatin mRNA in the adult muscle, as compared with controls. We propose that chronic stunting in fish brings about a general depression of muscle protein synthesis which does not spare myostatin.