- During embryogenesis, muscle and bone develop in close temporal and spatial proximity. We show that Indian Hedgehog, a bone-derived signaling molecule, participates in growth of skeletal muscle. In Ihh(-/-) embryos, skeletal muscle development appears abnormal at embryonic day 14.5 and at later ages through embryonic day 20.5, dramatic losses of hindlimb muscle occur. To further examine the role of Ihh in myogenesis, we manipulated Ihh expression in the developing chick hindlimb. Reduction of Ihh in chicken embryo hindlimbs reduced skeletal muscle mass similar to that seen in Ihh(-/-) mouse embryos. The reduction in muscle mass appears to be a direct effect of Ihh since ectopic expression of Ihh by RCAS retroviral infection of chicken embryo hindlimbs restores muscle mass. These effects are independent of bone length, and occur when Shh is not expressed, suggesting Ihh acts directly on fetal myoblasts to regulate secondary myogenesis. Loss of muscle mass in Ihh null mouse embryos is accompanied by a dramatic increase in myoblast apoptosis by a loss of p21 protein. Our data suggest that Ihh promotes fetal myoblast survival during their differentiation into secondary myofibers by maintaining p21 protein levels.