• myogenesis;
  • craniofacial;
  • muscle differentiation;
  • muscle morphogenesis;
  • skeletal muscle


Unraveling the complex tissue interactions necessary to generate the structural and functional diversity present among craniofacial muscles is challenging. These muscles initiate their development within a mesenchymal population bounded by the brain, pharyngeal endoderm, surface ectoderm, and neural crest cells. This set of spatial relations, and in particular the segmental properties of these adjacent tissues, are unique to the head. Additionally, the lack of early epithelialization in head mesoderm necessitates strategies for generating discrete myogenic foci that may differ from those operating in the trunk. Molecular data indeed indicate dissimilar methods of regulation, yet transplantation studies suggest that some head and trunk myogenic populations are interchangeable. The first goal of this review is to present key features of these diversities, identifying and comparing tissue and molecular interactions regulating myogenesis in the head and trunk. Our second focus is on the diverse morphogenetic movements exhibited by craniofacial muscles. Precursors of tongue muscles partly mimic migrations of appendicular myoblasts, whereas myoblasts destined to form extraocular muscles condense within paraxial mesoderm, then as large cohorts they cross the mesoderm:neural crest interface en route to periocular regions. Branchial muscle precursors exhibit yet another strategy, establishing contacts with neural crest populations before branchial arch formation and maintaining these relations through subsequent stages of morphogenesis. With many of the prerequisite stepping-stones in our knowledge of craniofacial myogenesis now in place, discovering the cellular and molecular interactions necessary to initiate and sustain the differentiation and morphogenesis of these neglected craniofacial muscles is now an attainable goal. Developmental Dynamics 235:1194–1218, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.