Bi P, Yue F, Sato Y, Wirbisky S, Liu W, Shan T, Wen Y, Zhou D, Freeman J, Kuang S. 2016. Stage-specific effects of notch activation during skeletal myogenesis. Elife 5:e17355.
Skeletal myogenesis involves sequential activation, proliferation, self-renewal/differentiation and fusion of myogenic stem cells (satellite cells). Notch signaling is known to be essential for the maintenance of satellite cells, but its function in late-stage myogenesis, i.e. post-differentiation myocytes and post-fusion myotubes, is unknown. Using stage-specific Cre alleles, we uncovered distinct roles of Notch1 in mononucleated myocytes and multinucleated myotubes. Specifically, constitutive Notch1 activation dedifferentiates myocytes into Pax7 quiescent satellite cells, leading to severe defects in muscle growth and regeneration, and postnatal lethality. By contrast, myotube-specific Notch1 activation improves the regeneration and exercise performance of aged and dystrophic muscles. Mechanistically, Notch1 activation in myotubes upregulates the expression of Notch ligands, which modulate Notch signaling in the adjacent satellite cells to enhance their regenerative capacity. These results highlight context-dependent effects of Notch activation during myogenesis, and demonstrate that Notch1 activity improves myotube’s function as a stem cell niche.