MEF2 Transcription Factors Regulate Distinct Gene Programs in Mammalian Skeletal Muscle Differentiation [Developmental Biology]

November 21st, 2014 by Estrella, N. L., Desjardins, C. A., Nocco, S. E., Clark, A. L., Maksimenko, Y., Naya, F. J.

Skeletal muscle differentiation requires precisely coordinated transcriptional regulation of diverse gene programs that ultimately give rise to the specialized properties of this cell type. In Drosophila this process is controlled, in part, by MEF2, the sole representative member of an evolutionarily conserved transcription factor family. By contrast, vertebrate MEF2 is encoded by four distinct genes, Mef2a, b, c, and d, making it far more challenging to link this transcription factor to the regulation of specific muscle gene programs. Here, we have taken the first step in molecularly dissecting vertebrate MEF2 transcriptional function in skeletal muscle differentiation by depleting individual MEF2 proteins in myoblasts. Whereas MEF2A is absolutely required for proper myoblast differentiation, MEF2B, C, and D were found to be dispensable for this process. Furthermore, despite the extensive redundancy, we show that mammalian MEF2 proteins regulate a significant subset of non-overlapping gene programs. These results suggest that individual MEF2 family members are able to recognize specific targets among the entire cohort of MEF2 regulated genes in the muscle genome. These findings provide opportunities to modulate the activity of MEF2 isoforms and their respective gene programs in skeletal muscle homeostasis and disease.