"Muscling" Throughout Life: Integrating Studies of Muscle Development, Homeostasis, and Disease in Zebrafish

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2017:124:197-234. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2016.11.002. Epub 2016 Dec 23.


The proper development and function of skeletal muscle is vital for health throughout the lifespan. Skeletal muscle function enables posture, breathing, and locomotion; and also impacts systemic processes-such as metabolism, thermoregulation, and immunity. Diseases of skeletal muscle (myopathies, muscular dystrophies) and even some neurological, age-related, and metabolic diseases compromise muscle function and negatively affect health span and quality of life. There have been numerous, recent examples of studies on skeletal muscle development with exciting, therapeutic implications for muscle diseases. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a vertebrate model organism well accepted for developmental biology and biomedical research and thus an ideal system in which to elucidate the translational implications of mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle development and homeostasis. Muscle fiber types (slow- vs fast-twitch) are spatially segregated in zebrafish allowing for the opportunity to identify distinct mechanisms regulating fiber type specification during development as well as observe fiber type-specific effects in zebrafish models of muscle diseases. Accessible genetics coupled with transparent zebrafish embryos has enabled in vivo cell biology experiments allowing for the visualization and understanding of never-before-seen cellular processes occurring in muscle development, regeneration, and disease. In addition, high-throughput drug screening provides a platform for efficient drug discovery. The purpose of this chapter is to review the studies in zebrafish that significantly contributed to our understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle development, homeostasis, or disease in vertebrates, with a particular emphasis on the basic developmental biology studies with promising therapeutic implications.

Keywords: Homeostasis; Morphogenesis; Muscle; Muscular dystrophy; Myogenesis; Myopathy; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Homeostasis*
  • Muscle Development*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / embryology
  • Muscular Diseases / pathology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*