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Keywords:

  • electric organ;
  • regeneration;
  • muscle transdifferentiation;
  • myogenesis;
  • neural influence of electrocyte phenotype

Abstract

The cells of the electric organ, called electrocytes, of the weakly electric fish Sternopygus macrurus derive from the fusion of mature fast muscle fibers that subsequently disassemble and downregulate their sarcomeric components. Previously, we showed a reversal of the differentiated state of electrocytes to that of their muscle fiber precursors when neural input is eliminated. The dependence of the mature electrocyte phenotype on neural input led us to test the hypothesis that innervation is also critical during formation of electrocytes. We used immunohistochemical analyses to examine the regeneration of skeletal muscle and electric organ in the presence or absence of innervation. We found that blastema formation is a nerve-dependent process because regeneration was minimal when tail amputation and denervation were performed at the same time. Denervation at the onset of myogenesis resulted in the differentiation of both fast and slow muscle fibers. These were fewer in number, but in a spatial distribution similar to controls. However, in the absence of innervation, fast muscle fibers did not progress beyond the formation of closely apposed clusters, suggesting that innervation is required for their fusion and subsequent transdifferentiation into electrocytes. This study contributes further to our knowledge of the influence of innervation on cell differentiation in the myogenic lineage. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 53: 391–402, 2002