Heterogeneity among muscle precursor cells in adult skeletal muscles with differing regenerative capacities

Dev Dyn. 1998 Aug;212(4):495-508. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0177(199808)212:4<495::AID-AJA3>3.0.CO;2-C.


Skeletal muscle has a remarkable capacity to regenerate after injury, although studies of muscle regeneration have heretofore been limited almost exclusively to limb musculature. Muscle precursor cells in skeletal muscle are responsible for the repair of damaged muscle. Heterogeneity exists in the growth and differentiation properties of muscle precursor cell (myoblast) populations throughout limb development but whether the muscle precursor cells differ among adult skeletal muscles is unknown. Such heterogeneity among myoblasts in the adult may give rise to skeletal muscles with different regenerative capacities. Here we compare the regenerative response of a masticatory muscle, the masseter, to that of limb muscles. After exogenous trauma (freeze or crush injuries), masseter muscle regenerated much less effectively than limb muscle. In limb muscle, normal architecture was restored 12 days after injury, whereas in masseter muscle, minimal regeneration occurred during the same time period. Indeed, at late time points, masseter muscles exhibited increased fibrous connective tissue in the region of damage, evidence of ineffective muscle regeneration. Similarly, in response to endogenous muscle injury due to a muscular dystrophy, widespread evidence of impaired regeneration was present in masseter muscle but not in limb muscle. To explore the cellular basis of these different regenerative capacities, we analyzed the myoblast populations of limb and masseter muscles both in vivo and in vitro. From in vivo analyses, the number of myoblasts in regenerating muscle was less in masseter compared with limb muscle. Assessment of population growth in vitro indicated that masseter myoblasts grow more slowly than limb myoblasts under identical conditions. We conclude that the impaired regeneration in masseter muscles is due to differences in the intrinsic myoblast populations compared to limb muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle / cytology
  • Masseter Muscle / injuries
  • Masseter Muscle / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • MyoD Protein / biosynthesis
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries


  • MyoD Protein