Knight, R.D., Mebus, K., and Roehl, H.H. (2008) Mandibular arch muscle identity is regulated by a conserved molecular process during vertebrate development. Journal of experimental zoology. Part B, Molecular and developmental evolution. 310(4):355-369.
Vertebrate head muscles exhibit a highly conserved pattern of innervation and skeletal connectivity and yet it is unclear whether the molecular basis of their development is likewise conserved. Using the highly conserved expression of Engrailed 2 (En2) as a marker of identity in the dorsal mandibular muscles of zebrafish, we have investigated the molecular signals and tissues required for patterning these muscles. We show that muscle En2 expression is not dependent on signals from the adjacent neural tube, pharyngeal endoderm or axial mesoderm and that early identity of head muscles does not require bone morphogenetic pathway, Notch or Hedgehog (Hh) signalling. However, constrictor dorsalis En2 expression is completely lost after a loss of fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) signalling and we show that is true throughout head muscle development. These results suggest that head muscle identity is dependent on Fgf signalling. Data from experiments performed in chick suggest a similar regulation of En2 genes by Fgf signalling revealing a conserved mechanism for specifying head muscle identity. We present evidence that another key gene important in the development of mouse head muscles, Tbx1, is also critical for specification of mandibular arch muscle identity and that this is independent of Fgf signalling. These data imply that dorsal mandibular arch muscle identity in fish, chick and mouse is specified by a highly conserved molecular process despite differing functions of these muscles in different lineages.