The muscle-specific transcription factors Myf5 and Mrf4 are two of the four myogenic regulatory factors involved in the transcriptional cascade responsible for skeletal myogenesis in the vertebrate embryo. Myf5 is the first of these four genes to be expressed in the mouse. We have previously described discrete enhancers that drive Myf5 expression in epaxial and hypaxial somites, branchial arches and central nervous system, and argued that additional elements are required for proper expression (Summerbell, D., Ashby, P. R., Coutelle, O., Cox, D., Yee, S. P. and Rigby, P. W. J. (2000) Development 127, 3745–3757). We have now investigated the transcriptional regulation of both Myf5 and Mrf4 using bacterial artificial chromosome transgenesis. We show that a clone containing Myf5 and 140 kb of upstream sequences is sufficient to recapitulate the known expression patterns of both genes. Our results confirm and reinforce the conclusion of our earlier studies, that Myf5 expression is regulated differently in each of a considerable number of populations of muscle progenitors, and they begin to illuminate the evolutionary origins of this complex regulation. We further show that separate elements are involved in the activation and maintenance of expression in the various precursor populations, reflecting the diversity of the signals that control myogenesis. Mrf4 expression requires at least four elements, one of which may be shared with Myf5, providing a possible explanation for the linkage of these genes throughout vertebrate phylogeny. Further complexity is revealed by the demonstration that elements which control Mrf4 and Myf5 are embedded in an unrelated neighbouring gene.

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