The way in which the pattern of cell types arises during development of individual muscles was explored. The pattern of cellular differentiation resulting from the synthesis of particular fast and slow myosin heavy chains (MyHC) was investigated in the intermandibularis muscle in the lower jaw of chick embryos. The intermandibularis muscle has a proximodistal pattern of fibre type distribution. The distal region of the muscle contains a ratio of 1.5:1 fast to slow muscle fibres, which increases to > 2.5:1 in the proximal region. The intermandibularis muscle is assembled in a proximodistal sequence, with both fast and slow muscle cells differentiating within the earliest muscle and then establishing the specific pattern of cell types. This pattern is not dependent on a specific innervation source, as normal lower jaw muscles develop and the intermandibularis has the same graded cellular pattern when the mandibular primordium is grafted to the limb bud stump. Micromass cultures were used to explore the pool of potentially myogenic cells that are available to construct the muscles. Even before the muscle differentiates in vivo, both fast and slow cells are present in the primordia. These potentially myogenic cells are already distributed within the primordium in a proximodistal fashion that mimics the cellular pattern found in the muscle that develops.

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