Hanging on for the ride: adhesion to the extracellular matrix mediates cellular responses in skeletal muscle morphogenesis and disease

Dev Biol. 2015 May 1;401(1):75-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


Skeletal muscle specification and morphogenesis during early development are critical for normal physiology. In addition to mediating locomotion, skeletal muscle is a secretory organ that contributes to metabolic homeostasis. Muscle is a highly adaptable tissue, as evidenced by the ability to increase muscle cell size and/or number in response to weight bearing exercise. Conversely, muscle wasting can occur during aging (sarcopenia), cancer (cancer cachexia), extended hospital stays (disuse atrophy), and in many genetic diseases collectively known as the muscular dystrophies and myopathies. It is therefore of great interest to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate skeletal muscle development and adaptation. Muscle morphogenesis transforms short muscle precursor cells into long, multinucleate myotubes that anchor to tendons via the myotendinous junction. This process requires carefully orchestrated interactions between cells and their extracellular matrix microenvironment. These interactions are dynamic, allowing muscle cells to sense biophysical, structural, organizational, and/or signaling changes within their microenvironment and respond appropriately. In many musculoskeletal diseases, these cell adhesion interactions are disrupted to such a degree that normal cellular adaptive responses are not sufficient to compensate for accumulating damage. Thus, one major focus of current research is to identify the cell adhesion mechanisms that drive muscle morphogenesis, with the hope that understanding how muscle cell adhesion promotes the intrinsic adaptability of muscle tissue during development may provide insight into potential therapeutic approaches for muscle diseases. Our objectives in this review are to highlight recent studies suggesting conserved roles for cell-extracellular matrix adhesion in vertebrate muscle morphogenesis and cellular adaptive responses in animal models of muscle diseases.

Keywords: Cell adhesion; Cellular adaptation; Extracellular matrix; Morphogenesis; Muscular dystrophy; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / embryology*
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy
  • Myoblasts / metabolism*
  • Vertebrates / embryology*