• myotomes;
  • hypaxial muscles;
  • hypobranchial muscle;
  • lamprey;
  • Pax3/7 gene


The myotome in gnathostome vertebrates, which gives rise to the trunk skeletal muscles, consists of epaxial (dorsal) and hypaxial (ventral) portions, separated by the horizontal myoseptum. The hypaxial portion contains some highly derived musculature that is functionally as well as morphologically well differentiated in all the gnathostome species. In contrast, the trunk muscles of agnathan lampreys lack these distinctions and any semblance of limb muscles. Therefore, the lamprey myotomes probably represent a primitive condition compared with gnathostomes. In this review, we compare the patterns of expression of some muscle-specific genes between the lamprey and gnathostomes. Although the cellular and tissue morphology of lamprey myotomes seems uniform and undifferentiated, some of the muscle-specific genes are expressed in a spatially restricted manner. The lamprey Pax3/7 gene, a cognate of gnathostome Pax3, is expressed only at the lateral edge of the myotomes and in the hypobranchial muscle, which we presume is homologous to the gnathostome hypobranchial muscle. Thus, the emergence of some part of a hypaxial-specific gene regulatory cascade might have evolved before the agnathan/gnathostome divergence, or before the evolutionary separation of epaxial and hypaxial muscles. Developmental Dynamics 234:824–834, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.