We have previously found that the myotome is formed by a first wave of pioneer cells generated along the medial epithelial somite and a second wave emanating from the dorsomedial lip (DML), rostral and caudal edges of the dermomyotome (Kahane, N., Cinnamon, Y. and Kalcheim, C. (1998a) Mech. Dev. 74, 59–73; Kahane, N., Cinnamon, Y. and Kalcheim, C. (1998b) Development 125, 4259–4271). In this study, we have addressed the development and precise fate of the ventrolateral lip (VLL) in non-limb regions of the axis. To this end, fluorescent vital dyes were iontophoretically injected in the center of the VLL and the translocation of labeled cells was followed by confocal microscopy. VLL-derived cells colonized the ventrolateral portion of the myotome. This occurred following an early longitudinal cell translocation along the medial boundary until reaching the rostral or caudal dermomyotome lips from which fibers emerged into the myotome. Thus, the behavior of VLL cells parallels that of their DML counterparts which colonize the opposite, dorsomedial portion of the myotome. To precisely understand the way the myotome expands, we addressed the early generation of hypaxial intercostal muscles. We found that intercostal muscles were formed by VLL-derived fibers that intermingled with fibers emerging from the ventrolateral aspect of both rostral and caudal edges of the dermomyotome. Notably, hypaxial intercostal muscles also contained pioneer myofibers (first wave) showing for the first time that lateral myotome-derived muscles contain a fundamental component of fibers generated in the medial domain of the somite. In addition, we show that during myotome growth and evolution into muscle, second-wave myofibers progressively intercalate between the pioneer fibers, suggesting a constant mode of myotomal expansion in its dorsomedial to ventrolateral extent. This further suggests that specific hypaxial muscles develop following a consistent ventral expansion of a ‘compound myotome’ into the somatopleure.

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