Visualizing MyoD oscillations in muscle stem cells


  • I. Lahmann
  • C. Birchmeier


  • Methods in Molecular Biology


  • Methods Mol Biol 2640: 259-276


  • The bHLH transcription factor MyoD is a master regulator of myogenic differentiation, and its sustained expression in fibroblasts suffices to differentiate them into muscle cells. MyoD expression oscillates in activated muscle stem cells of developing, postnatal and adult muscle under various conditions: when the stem cells are dispersed in culture, when they remain associated with single muscle fibers, or when they reside in muscle biopsies. The oscillatory period is around 3 h and thus much shorter than the cell cycle or circadian rhythm. Unstable MyoD oscillations and long periods of sustained MyoD expression are observed when stem cells undergo myogenic differentiation. The oscillatory expression of MyoD is driven by the oscillatory expression of the bHLH transcription factor Hes1 that periodically represses MyoD. Ablation of the Hes1 oscillator interferes with stable MyoD oscillations and leads to prolonged periods of sustained MyoD expression. This interferes with the maintenance of activated muscle stem cells and impairs muscle growth and repair. Thus, oscillations of MyoD and Hes1 control the balance between the proliferation and differentiation of muscle stem cells. Here, we describe time-lapse imaging methods using luciferase reporters, which can monitor dynamic MyoD gene expression in myogenic cells.