Muscles coordinate body movements throughout the animal kingdom. Each skeletal muscle is built of large, multi-nucleated cells, called myofibers, which are classified into several functionally distinct types. The typical fiber-type composition of each muscle arises during development, and in mammals is extensively adjusted in response to postnatal exercise. Understanding how functionally distinct muscle fiber-types arise is important for unraveling the molecular basis of diseases from cardiomyopathies to muscular dystrophies. In this review, we focus on recent advances in Drosophila and mammals in understanding how muscle fiber-type specification is controlled by the regulation of transcription and alternative splicing. We illustrate the cooperation of general myogenic transcription factors with muscle fiber-type specific transcriptional regulators as a basic principle for fiber-type specification, which is conserved from flies to mammals. We also examine how regulated alternative splicing of sarcomeric proteins in both flies and mammals can directly instruct the physiological and biophysical differences between fiber-types. Thus, research in Drosophila can provide important mechanistic insight into muscle fiber specification, which is relevant to homologous processes in mammals and to the pathology of muscle diseases.
Keywords: Alternative splicing; Drosophila; Muscle; Sarcomere; Transcription.
© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.