Specification of jaw muscle identity in zebrafish: correlation with engrailed-homeoprotein expression

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Science  09 Nov 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4982, pp. 802-805
DOI: 10.1126/science.1978412


Molecules that determine the specific features of individual muscles in vertebrates are unknown. Antibody labeling studies described here revealed a molecular difference among muscles in the zebrafish head, in that two functionally related jaw muscles (the levator arcus palatini and the dilator operculi), and not other head muscles, expressed engrailed-homeodomain proteins. Expression began in mesoderm-derived muscle-precursor cells in the paraxial mesenchyme and continued during muscle morphogenesis and differentiation. Growth cones of trigeminal motoneurons that innervate these muscles associated with the precursors within a few hours of the time they began to express engrailed. It is proposed that the engrailed proteins in these cells establish muscle identity and neuromuscular target recognition.