Skeletal muscle has great regenerative capacity which is dependent on muscle stem cells, also known as satellite cells. A loss of satellite cells and/or their function impairs skeletal muscle regeneration and leads to a loss of skeletal muscle power; therefore, the molecular mechanisms for maintaining satellite cells in a quiescent and undifferentiated state are of great interest in skeletal muscle biology. Many studies have demonstrated proteins expressed by satellite cells, including Pax7, M-cadherin, Cxcr4, syndecan3/4, and c-met. To further characterize satellite cells, we established a method to directly isolate satellite cells using a monoclonal antibody, SM/C-2.6. Using SM/C-2.6 and microarrays, we measured the genes expressed in quiescent satellite cells and demonstrated that Hesr3 may complement Hesr1 in generating quiescent satellite cells. Although Hesr1- or Hesr3-single knockout mice show a normal skeletal muscle phenotype, including satellite cells, Hesr1/Hesr3-double knockout mice show a gradual decrease in the number of satellite cells and increase in regenerative defects dependent on satellite cell numbers. We also observed that a mouse's genetic background affects the regenerative capacity of its skeletal muscle and have established a line of DBA/2-background mdx mice that has a much more severe phenotype than the frequently used C57BL/10-mdx mice. The phenotype of DBA/2-mdx mice also seems to depend on the function of satellite cells. In this review, we summarize the methodology of direct isolation, characterization, and molecular regulation of satellite cells based on our results. The relationship between the regenerative capacity of satellite cells and progression of muscular disorders is also summarized. In the last part, we discuss application of the accumulating scientific information on satellite cells to treatment of patients with muscular disorders.
Keywords: cell therapies; maintenance; microarray; muscular diseases; notch; quiescence; satellite cells; skeletal muscle.