Skeletal muscle stem cells (MuSCs), also known as satellite cells, persist in adult mammals by entering a state of quiescence (G0) during the early postnatal period. Quiescence is reversed during damage-induced regeneration and re-established after regeneration. Entry of cultured myoblasts into G0 is associated with a specific, reversible induction of Wnt target genes, thus implicating members of the Tcf and Lef1 (Tcf/Lef) transcription factor family, which mediate transcriptional responses to Wnt signaling, in the initiation of quiescence. We found that the canonical Wnt effector β-catenin, which cooperates with Tcf/Lef, was dispensable for myoblasts to enter quiescence. Using pharmacological and genetic approaches in cultured C2C12 myoblasts and in MuSCs, we demonstrated that Tcf/Lef activity during quiescence depended not on β-catenin but on the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) effector and transcriptional coactivator Smad3, which colocalized with Lef1 at canonical Wnt-responsive elements and directly interacted with Lef1 specifically in G0 Depletion of Smad3, but not β-catenin, reduced Lef1 occupancy at target promoters, Tcf/Lef target gene expression, and self-renewal of myoblasts. In vivo, MuSCs underwent a switch from β-catenin-Lef1 to Smad3-Lef1 interactions during the postnatal switch from proliferation to quiescence, with β-catenin-Lef1 interactions recurring during damage-induced reactivation. Our findings suggest that the interplay of Wnt-Tcf/Lef and TGF-β-Smad3 signaling activates canonical Wnt target promoters in a manner that depends on β-catenin during myoblast proliferation but is independent of β-catenin during MuSC quiescence.
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