Skeletal muscle cells have provided an auspicious system for dissecting the mechanisms through which growth factor signals disrupt programs for cellular differentiation. Insight into the molecular mechanisms that control muscle differentiation has recently been obtained through the cloning of a family of muscle-specific transcription factors, often referred to as the MyoD family, that can activate myogenesis. The expression and activity of these factors are negatively regulated by growth factor signals and by activated oncogenes whose products transduce growth signals from the cell membrane to the nucleus. This review will focus on the role of proto-oncogenes in the transduction of growth factor signals that regulate myogenesis and on the cross-talk between the regulatory circuits that control myoblast proliferation and differentiation.
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