A novel in vitro model for the assessment of postnatal myonuclear accretion

Anita Kneppers*, Lex Verdijk, Chiel de Theije, Mark Corten, Ellis Gielen, Luc van Loon, Annemie Schols, Ramon Langen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Due to the post-mitotic nature of myonuclei, postnatal myogenesis is essential for skeletal muscle growth, repair, and regeneration. This process is facilitated by satellite cells through proliferation, differentiation, and subsequent fusion with a pre-existing muscle fiber (i.e., myonuclear accretion). Current knowledge of myogenesis is primarily based on the in vitro formation of syncytia from myoblasts, which represents aspects of developmental myogenesis, but may incompletely portray postnatal myogenesis. Therefore, we aimed to develop an in vitro model that better reflects postnatal myogenesis, to study the cell intrinsic and extrinsic processes and signaling involved in the regulation of postnatal myogenesis.

METHODS: Proliferating C2C12 myoblasts were trypsinized and co-cultured for 3 days with 5 days differentiated C2C12 myotubes. Postnatal myonuclear accretion was visually assessed by live cell time-lapse imaging and cell tracing by cell labeling with Vybrant® DiD and DiO. Furthermore, a Cre/LoxP-based cell system was developed to semi-quantitatively assess in vitro postnatal myonuclear accretion by the conditional expression of luciferase upon myoblast-myotube fusion. Luciferase activity was assessed luminometrically and corrected for total protein content.

RESULTS: Live cell time-lapse imaging, staining-based cell tracing, and recombination-dependent luciferase activity, showed the occurrence of postnatal myonuclear accretion in vitro. Treatment of co-cultures with the myogenic factor IGF-I (p < 0.001) and the cytokines IL-13 (p < 0.05) and IL-4 (p < 0.001) increased postnatal myonuclear accretion, while the myogenic inhibitors cytochalasin D (p < 0.001), myostatin (p < 0.05), and TNFα (p < 0.001) decreased postnatal myonuclear accretion. Furthermore, postnatal myonuclear accretion was increased upon recovery from electrical pulse stimulation-induced fiber damage (p < 0.001) and LY29004-induced atrophy (p < 0.001). Moreover, cell type-specific siRNA-mediated knockdown of myomaker in myoblasts (p < 0.001), but not in myotubes, decreased postnatal myonuclear accretion.

CONCLUSIONS: We developed a physiologically relevant, sensitive, high-throughput cell system for semi-quantitative assessment of in vitro postnatal myonuclear accretion, which can be used to mimic physiological myogenesis triggers, and can distinguish the cell type-specific roles of signals and responses in the regulation of postnatal myogenesis. As such, this method is suitable for both basal and translational research on the regulation of postnatal myogenesis, and will improve our understanding of muscle pathologies that result from impaired satellite cell number or function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages13
JournalSkeletal Muscle
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • Skeletal muscle
  • Satellite cells
  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell fusion
  • Postnatal myogenesis
  • Muscle maintenance
  • Muscle regeneration
  • Muscle repair
  • Myotubes
  • Myoblasts
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I/pharmacology
  • Interleukin-4/pharmacology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13/pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction/physiology
  • Atrophy
  • Muscle Development/drug effects
  • Cell Fusion
  • Regeneration/drug effects
  • Muscle Proteins/metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation/drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal/cytology
  • Animals
  • Membrane Proteins/metabolism
  • Myoblasts/cytology
  • Models, Biological
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal/physiology

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