The myonuclear domain in adult skeletal muscle fibres: past, present and future

J Physiol. 2023 Feb;601(4):723-741. doi: 10.1113/JP283658. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Most cells in the body are mononuclear whereas skeletal muscle fibres are uniquely multinuclear. The nuclei of muscle fibres (myonuclei) are usually situated peripherally which complicates the equitable distribution of gene products. Myonuclear abundance can also change under conditions such as hypertrophy and atrophy. Specialised zones in muscle fibres have different functions and thus distinct synthetic demands from myonuclei. The complex structure and regulatory requirements of multinuclear muscle cells understandably led to the hypothesis that myonuclei govern defined 'domains' to maintain homeostasis and facilitate adaptation. The purpose of this review is to provide historical context for the myonuclear domain and evaluate its veracity with respect to mRNA and protein distribution resulting from myonuclear transcription. We synthesise insights from past and current in vitro and in vivo genetically modified models for studying the myonuclear domain under dynamic conditions. We also cover the most contemporary knowledge on mRNA and protein transport in muscle cells. Insights from emerging technologies such as single myonuclear RNA-sequencing further inform our discussion of the myonuclear domain. We broadly conclude: (1) the myonuclear domain can be flexible during muscle fibre growth and atrophy, (2) the mechanisms and role of myonuclear loss and motility deserve further consideration, (3) mRNA in muscle is actively transported via microtubules and locally restricted, but proteins may travel far from a myonucleus of origin and (4) myonuclear transcriptional specialisation extends beyond the classic neuromuscular and myotendinous populations. A deeper understanding of the myonuclear domain in muscle may promote effective therapies for ageing and disease.

Keywords: microtubules; muscle fibre; myonuclei; myotubes; satellite cell; single cell RNA-sequencing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / metabolism
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal* / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger