• Muscle development;
  • Innervation;
  • Secondary myotube;
  • Muscle architecture;
  • Electron microscopy;
  • Light microscopy


This work examines the general principle of whether production of embryonic muscle fibres is invariably linked to sites of innervation, as we have previously reported in small rodent muscles (Duxson et al. [1989] Development 107:743–750). The experimental strategy has been to make a detailed electron microscopic analysis of the formation of new myotubes in a large muscle having multiple, discrete innervation zones. The particular model system is the guinea pig sternomastoid muscle, a strap-like, parallel-fibred muscle with four distinct endplate bands, both in the embryo and the adult. Primary myotubes in the developing muscle extended from tendon to tendon of the muscle and were innervated at each of the multiple endplate zones. Each point of innervation of the primary myotubes was a focus around which many new secondary myotubes formed, and each secondary myotube was approximately centred on one of the innervation sites of its supporting primary myotube. This confirms our previous report, in rat IVth lumbrical muscle, of an invariable association between sites of formation of new secondary myotubes and sites of innervation. We suggest that, in vivo, nerve terminals either directly induce the initial myoblast fusions which give rise to new secondary myotubes, or induce some precondition for fusion. An alternative hypothesis is that a common patterning influence in the muscle localizes both innervation and secondary myotube formation to the same zone. The pattern of secondary myotube production in the embryo has important implications for the size and final architecture of muscles in larger animals, and some of these are discussed. © 1995 wiley-Liss, Inc.