Cytological differentiation of human fetal skeletal muscle

Am J Anat. 1977 Jun;149(2):227-45. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001490207.


The ultrastructural differentiation of several different muscles was investigated in human fetuses ranging in age from 13 weeks to neonatal. At approximately 16 weeks of gestation cell cluster containing both myotubes and satellite cells lie enclosed by a newly formed basal lamina and show evidence of fusion. The development of organelles is evident in myoblasts, proceeds as the cells transform into myofibers, and continues in the neonate. Filament synthesis occurs primarily in the cell periphery where thin filaments appear to align themselves in relations to parallel arrays of ribosome-studded thick filaments: Z line formation follows the appearance of thin filaments. Intermediate filaments, approximately 10-12 nm thick, were also consistently observed in perinuclear regions and distal to filament assembly. Although sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) development is closely related to fibril formation, connections between Z lines and SR are not consistent, thus supporting the conclusion that SR does not evoke the formation of the Z line. Bristlecoated vesicles appear to be the precursors of elements of the SR, possibly the lateral sacs. Development of the transverse tubules, as invaginations of the sarcolemma, is closely associated with the formation of lateral sacs since the latter occur along the sarcolemma as soon as transverse tubules appear. Cytological differentiation is similar, though not identical, in several different muscles. During the last trimester muscle fibers show some evidence of diversity mainly of variation in Z line width. In gerneral the results suggest that the sequence and stages of human myogenesis are similar to those of other species.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Fetus / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leg
  • Muscles / embryology*
  • Muscles / ultrastructure
  • Myofibrils / ultrastructure