Developmental biology

Phosphorylation of Lbx1 controls lateral myoblast migration into the limb.

PMID 28843494


The migration of limb myogenic precursors from limb level somites to their ultimate site of differentiation in the limb is a paradigmatic example of a set of dynamic and orchestrated migratory cell behaviours. The homeobox containing transcription factor ladybird homeobox 1 (Lbx1) is a central regulator of limb myoblast migration, null mutations of Lbx1 result in severe disruptions to limb muscle formation, particularly in the distal region of the limb in mice (Gross et al., 2000). As such Lbx1 has been hypothesized to control lateral migration of myoblasts into the distal limb anlage. It acts as a core regulator of the limb myoblast migration machinery, controlled by Pax3. A secondary role for Lbx1 in the differentiation and commitment of limb musculature has also been proposed (Brohmann et al., 2000; Uchiyama et al., 2000). Here we show that lateral migration, but not differentiation or commitment of limb myoblasts, is controlled by the phosphorylation of three adjacent serine residues of LBX1. Electroporation of limb level somites in the chick embryo with a dephosphomimetic form of Lbx1 results in a specific defect in the lateral migration of limb myoblasts. Although the initial delamination and migration of myoblasts is unaffected, migration into the distal limb bud is severely disrupted. Interestingly, myoblasts undergo normal differentiation independent of their migratory status, suggesting that the differentiation potential of hypaxial muscle is not regulated by the phosphorylation state of LBX1. Furthermore, we show that FGF8 and ERK mediated signal transduction, both critical regulators of the developing limb bud, have the capacity to induce the phosphorylation of LBX1 at these residues. Overall, this suggests a mechanism whereby the phosphorylation of LBX1, potentially through FGF8 and ERK signalling, controls the lateral migration of myoblasts into the distal limb bud.