Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the DMD gene that disrupt the open reading frame and prevent the full translation of its protein product, dystrophin. Restoration of the open reading frame and dystrophin production can be achieved by exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides targeted to splicing elements. This approach aims to transform the Duchenne muscular dystrophy phenotype to that of the milder disorder, Becker muscular dystrophy, typically caused by in-frame dystrophin deletions that allow the production of an internally deleted but partially functional dystrophin. There is ongoing debate regarding the functional properties of the different internally deleted dystrophins produced by exon skipping for different mutations; more insight would be valuable to improve and better predict the outcome of exon skipping clinical trials. To this end, we have characterized the clinical phenotype of 17 patients with Becker muscular dystrophy harbouring in-frame deletions relevant to on-going or planned exon skipping clinical trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and correlated it to the levels of dystrophin, and dystrophin-associated protein expression. The cohort of 17 patients, selected exclusively on the basis of their genotype, included 4 asymptomatic, 12 mild and 1 severe patient. All patients had dystrophin levels of >40% of control and significantly higher dystrophin (P = 0.013), β-dystroglycan (P = 0.025) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (P = 0.034) expression was observed in asymptomatic individuals versus symptomatic patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, grouping the patients by deletion, patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions with an end-point of exon 51 (the skipping of which could rescue the largest group of Duchenne muscular dystrophy deletions) showed significantly higher dystrophin levels (P = 0.034) than those with deletions ending with exon 53. This is the first quantitative study on both dystrophin and dystrophin-associated protein expression in patients with Becker muscular dystrophy with deletions relevant for on-going exon skipping trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Taken together, our results indicate that all varieties of internally deleted dystrophin assessed in this study have the functional capability to provide a substantial clinical benefit to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Becker muscular dystrophy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; nNOS; dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex; therapy
Protein-truncating mutations in the dystrophin gene lead to the progressive muscle wasting disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy, whereas in-frame deletions typically manifest as the milder allelic condition, Becker muscular dystrophy. Antisense oligomer-induced exon skipping can modify dystrophin gene expression so that a disease-associated dystrophin pre-mRNA is processed into a Becker muscular dystrophy-like mature transcript. Despite genomic deletions that may encompass hundreds of kilobases of the gene, some dystrophin mutations appear “leaky”, and low levels of high molecular weight, and presumably semi-functional, dystrophin are produced. A likely causative mechanism is endogenous exon skipping, and Duchenne individuals with higher baseline levels of dystrophin may respond more efficiently to the administration of splice-switching antisense oligomers. We optimized excision of exons 8 and 9 in normal human myoblasts, and evaluated several oligomers in cells from eight Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients with deletions in a known “leaky” region of the dystrophin gene. Inter-patient variation in response to antisense oligomer induced skipping in vitro appeared minimal. We describe oligomers targeting exon 8, that unequivocally increase dystrophin above baseline in vitro, and propose that patients with leaky mutations are ideally suited for participation in antisense oligomer mediated splice-switching clinical studies.
antisense oligomers; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; exon skipping; personalized genetic therapy; splice-switching
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which afflicts 1 in 3500 boys, is one of the most common genetic disorders of children. This fatal degenerative condition is caused by an absence or deficiency of dystrophin in striated muscle. Most affected patients have inherited or spontaneous deletions in the dystrophin gene that disrupt the reading frame resulting in unstable truncated products. For these patients, restoration of the reading frame via antisense oligonucleotide-mediated exon skipping is a promising therapeutic approach. The major DMD deletion “hot spot” is found between exons 45 and 53, and skipping exon 51 in particular is predicted to ameliorate the dystrophic phenotype in the greatest number of patients. Currently the mdx mouse is the most widely used animal model of DMD, although its mild phenotype limits its suitability in clinical trials. The Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) model has a severe phenotype, but due to its large size, is expensive to use. Both these models have mutations in regions of the dystrophin gene distant from the commonly mutated DMD “hot spot”.
Here we describe the severe phenotype, histopathological findings, and molecular analysis of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with dystrophin-deficient muscular dystrophy (CKCS-MD). The dogs harbour a missense mutation in the 5′ donor splice site of exon 50 that results in deletion of exon 50 in mRNA transcripts and a predicted premature truncation of the translated protein. Antisense oligonucleotide-mediated skipping of exon 51 in cultured myoblasts from an affected dog restored the reading frame and protein expression.
Given the small size of the breed, the amiable temperament and the nature of the mutation, we propose that CKCS-MD is a valuable new model for clinical trials of antisense oligonucleotide-induced exon skipping and other therapeutic approaches for DMD.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal muscle wasting disease caused by a loss of the dystrophin protein. Control of dystrophin mRNA splicing to convert severe DMD to a milder phenotype is attracting much attention. Here we report a dystrophinopathy patient who has a point mutation in exon 31 of the dystrophin gene. Although the mutation generates a stop codon, a small amount of internally deleted, but functional, dystrophin protein is produced in the patient cells. An analysis of the mRNA reveals that the mutation promotes exon skipping and restores the open reading frame of dystrophin. Presumably, the mutation disrupts an exonic splicing enhancer and creates an exonic splicing silencer. Therefore, we searched for small chemicals that enhance exon skipping, and found that TG003 promotes the skipping of exon 31 in the endogenous dystrophin gene in a dose-dependent manner and increases the production of the dystrophin protein in the patient's cells.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a loss of the dystrophin gene, and control of dystrophin mRNA splicing could aid treatment of the disease. Nishida et al. show that a small molecule promotes skipping of exon 31 and increases production of a functional dystrophin protein in a patient.
One therapeutic approach to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) recently entering clinical trials aims to convert DMD phenotypes to that of a milder disease variant, Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD), by employing antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) targeting splice sites, to induce exon skipping and restore partial dystrophin function. In order to search for small molecule and genetic modulators of AON-dependent and independent exon skipping, we screened ∼10,000 known small molecule drugs, >17,000 cDNA clones, and >2,000 kinase- targeted siRNAs against a 5.6 kb luciferase minigene construct, encompassing exon 71 to exon 73 of human dystrophin. As a result, we identified several enhancers of exon skipping, acting on both the reporter construct as well as endogenous dystrophin in mdx cells. Multiple mechanisms of action were identified, including histone deacetylase inhibition, tubulin modulation and pre-mRNA processing. Among others, the nucleolar protein NOL8 and staufen RNA binding protein homolog 2 (Stau2) were found to induce endogenous exon skipping in mdx cells in an AON-dependent fashion. An unexpected but recurrent theme observed in our screening efforts was the apparent link between the inhibition of cell cycle progression and the induction of exon skipping.
Females manifesting Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) are even more rarely observed than for the allelic condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The male proband has typical BMD with greatly raised CK activity and a myopathic muscle biopsy. His mother experienced walking difficulties from 35 years of age and has a myopathy with marked calf hypertrophy, a raised CK, and a myopathic muscle biopsy. Dystrophin analysis was undertaken on both the proband and his mother. Immunoblotting showed a protein of normal size but of reduced abundance in both. Immunocytochemical analysis in the proband indicated that the majority of the fibres showed weak dystrophin labelling and in his mother both dystrophin positive and dystrophin negative fibres were present. Non-random X inactivation at locus DXS255, was observed in DNA isolated from peripheral lymphocytes of the mother. Neither extended multiplex PCR performed on DNA from the proband nor analysis of lymphocyte derived mRNA showed a structural alteration in the dystrophin gene suggesting that an unusual mutation was responsible for BMD in this family.
Mutations in the DMD gene result in two common phenotypes associated with progressive muscle weakness: the more severe Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and the milder Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD). We have previously identified a nonsense mutation (c.9G>A; p.Trp3X) within the first exon of the DMD gene, encoding the unique N-terminus of the 427 kDa muscle isoform of the dystrophin protein. Although this mutation would be expected to result in severe disease, the clinical phenotype is very mild BMD, with ambulation preserved into the 7th decade. We identify the molecular mechanism responsible for the amelioration of disease severity to be initiation of translation at two proximate AUG codons within exon 6. Analysis of large mutational data sets suggests that this may be a general mechanism of phenotypic rescue for point mutations within at least the first two exons of the DMD gene. Our results directly demonstrate, for the first time, the use of alternate translational initiation codons within the DMD gene, and suggest that dystrophin protein lacking amino acids encoded by the first five exons retains significant function.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; DMD; Becker Muscular Dystrophy; BMD; dystrophinopathy; translation; truncating mutations
A key issue in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) gene therapy is whether we need to keep a functional dystrophin expression throughout the entire life span of the patients. Answer to this question will have significant impact on a number of therapeutic approaches, such as oligonucleotide-mediated exon skipping and protein therapy. A recent study by Ghahramani Seno et al provided a clue to this important question (1). The authors applied AAV-mediated RNAi to knockdown dystrophin expression in the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle of 1-m-old C57Bl/10 mice. Dystrophin level was reduced to undetectable levels (by immunohistostaining) four months later. Dystrophin-associated proteins were also reduced. Surprisingly, utrophin was not up-regulated. What is even more surprising is that the authors did not see the characteristic dystrophic muscle pathology after one-year long dystrophin knockdown.
Antisense-mediated exon skipping is currently one of the most promising therapeutic approaches for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Using antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) targeting specific exons the DMD reading frame is restored and partially functional dystrophins are produced. Following proof of concept in cultured muscle cells from patients with various deletions and point mutations, we now focus on single and multiple exon duplications. These mutations are in principle ideal targets for this approach since the specific skipping of duplicated exons would generate original, full-length transcripts.
Cultured muscle cells from DMD patients carrying duplications were transfected with AONs targeting the duplicated exons, and the dystrophin RNA and protein were analyzed.
For two brothers with an exon 44 duplication, skipping was, even at suboptimal transfection conditions, so efficient that both exons 44 were skipped, thus generating, once more, an out-of-frame transcript. In such cases, one may resort to multi-exon skipping to restore the reading frame, as is shown here by inducing skipping of exon 43 and both exons 44. By contrast, in cells from a patient with an exon 45 duplication we were able to induce single exon 45 skipping, which allowed restoration of wild type dystrophin. The correction of a larger duplication (involving exons 52 to 62), by combinations of AONs targeting the outer exons, appeared problematic due to inefficient skipping and mistargeting of original instead of duplicated exons.
The correction of DMD duplications by exon skipping depends on the specific exons targeted. Its options vary from the ideal one, restoring for the first time the true, wild type dystrophin, to requiring more 'classical' skipping strategies, while the correction of multi-exon deletions may need the design of tailored approaches.
The age when boys lose the ability to walk independently is one of the milestones in the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We have used this as a measure of disease severity in a group of 30 patients with DMD and six patients with intermediate Duchenne/Becker dystrophy (D/BMD). Dystrophin analysis was performed on tissue sections and western blots of muscle biopsy specimens from these patients and the relationships that were found between clinical severity and abundance of dystrophin labelling are reported. All patients with intermediate D/BMD had dystrophin labelling that was detected on sections and blots. Weak dystrophin labelling was found in sections from 21/30 DMD cases and on blots in 18/30 cases. Two non-exclusive patterns of dystrophin labelling were observed on sections: very clear labelling on a small percentage of fibres (usually < 1%) or very weak labelling on a much higher proportion (about 25%). The mean age at loss of mobility among the DMD patients with no dystrophin labelling on tissue sections was 7.9 years (range 6.3-9.5) while the mean age among those with some labelling was 9.9 years (range 8.0-11.9); this is a significant difference. Quantitative estimates of dystrophin abundance were obtained from densitometric analysis of dystrophin bands on blots. In the whole group of 36 patients, a significant positive relationship was found between the abundance of dystrophin and the age at loss of independent mobility. It is concluded that even the very low concentrations of dystrophin found in DMD patients may have some functional significance.
Cardiomyopathy is often found in patients with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, which are X linked muscle diseases caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Dystrophin defects present in many different ways and cases of mild Becker muscular dystrophy have been described in which cardiomyopathy was severe. Female carriers of Duchenne muscular dystrophy can develop symptomatic skeletal myopathy alone or combined with dilated cardiomyopathy. They can also develop dilated cardiomyopathy alone. X linked dilated cardiomyopathy has been found in association with dystrophin defects. The relation between the molecular defects and the cardiac phenotypes has not yet been established. New mutations in the dystrophin gene are common and such mutations cause one third of the cases with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. This means that sporadic cases of cardiomyopathy caused by dystrophin defects are likely. This paper reports such a case in a boy of 14 who died of dilated cardiomyopathy. Before the cardiac investigation, which was performed one month before he died, he had not complained of muscular weakness. He had minor signs of limb girdle myopathy and slightly increased concentrations of serum creatine kinase. He was found to have an unusual deletion in the dystrophin gene.
Purpose of review
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle degenerative disease caused by dystrophin mutations. The purpose of this review is to highlight two emerging therapies designed to repair the primary genetic defect, called `exon skipping' and `nonsense codon suppression'.
A drug, PTC124, was identified that suppresses nonsense codon translation termination. PTC124 can lead to restoration of some dystrophin expression in human Duchenne muscular dystrophy muscles with mutations resulting in premature stops. Two drugs developed for exon skipping, PRO051 and AVI-4658, result in the exclusion of exon 51 from mature mRNA. They can restore the translational reading frame to dystrophin transcripts from patients with a particular subset of dystrophin gene deletions and lead to some restoration of dystrophin expression in affected boys' muscle in vivo. Both approaches have concluded phase I trials with no serious adverse events.
These novel therapies that act to correct the primary genetic defect of dystrophin deficiency are among the first generation of therapies tailored to correct specific mutations in humans. Thus, they represent paradigm forming approaches to personalized medicine with the potential to lead to life changing treatment for those affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
antisense therapeutics; disease; dystrophin; dystrophy; exon skipping; mouse; muscle; nonsense codon suppression
The absence of dystrophin causes the drastic reduction of the dystrophin-associated proteins (DAPs) in the sarcolemma and the loss of the linkage between the subsarcolemmal cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) skeletal muscle. Here, we report a mild reduction of the DAPs in the unique Becker muscular dystrophy patients with huge deletions in the rod domain of dystrophin and a moderate reduction of the DAPs in patients with huge deletions that involve both the NH2-terminal and rod domains of dystrophin. The phenotype of the latter patients was more severe than that of the former. In both cases, however, the reduction in the DAPs was milder than in typical DMD patients or DMD patients lacking the COOH-terminal domains of dystrophin. Our results suggest that (a) the NH2-terminal and rod domains of dystrophin may not be essential for the interaction with the sarcolemmal glycoprotein complex; and (b) defects in the actin binding activity of dystrophin may cause disruption of the anchorage of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex to the subsarcolemmal cytoskeleton, which may render muscle fibers susceptible to degeneration.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a muscle disorder resulting from mutations or deletions in the dystrophin gene that results in loss of protein expression. Loss of dystrophin in muscle leads to defects in physiology and progressive muscle wasting that typically result in premature death due to cardiac dysfunction or respiratory failure. One approach to therapy in DMD involves delivery of therapeutics designed to cause skipping of the relevant mutated or deleted exon in the dystrophin gene, ultimately stimulating production of a truncated, but functional, dystrophin protein. To evaluate various therapeutic strategies like exon skipping, we attempted to identify potential biomarkers and to develop a quantitative strategy to measure and identify dystrophin protein isoforms in human skeletal muscles by MS. We used human muscle biopsy specimens to analyze dystrophin isoforms from normal human muscle and DMD muscle. Proteins from normal and DMD muscles were extracted and separated. LC/MS/MS spectra were acquired in a data-dependent mode. Proteins were searched against the human IPI Database. Data processing was done using Bioworks 3.3 for peptide ID based on Xcorr vs Charge state. The identified proteins of Normal (1013) vs DMD (865) muscle were classified by Babelomics. Their cellular component distributions were mitochondria (5.2/ 8.8%), intracellular (24.1/24.8%), membrane (14.8/11%), cytoskeleton (17.1/13.6%), cytoplasm (17.6/14.7%), nucleus (7.1/10.8%). Our results revealed the identification of proteins involved in nucleotide metabolism, Ca2+ handling, cellular stress response, key bioenegetic processes and biomarkers like dystrophin, utrophin, calpain and troponin. ICAT analysis followed by mass spectrometry detected levels of dystrophin. Improvements on the yield and recovery of dystrophy-related and clinically relevant tagged proteins are currently in progress.
The disintegration of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex represents the initial pathobiochemical insult in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, secondary changes in signalling, energy metabolism and ion homeostasis are probably the main factors that eventually cause progressive muscle wasting. Thus, for the proper evaluation of novel therapeutic approaches, it is essential to analyse the reversal of both primary and secondary abnormalities in treated muscles. Antisense oligomer-mediated exon skipping promises functional restoration of the primary deficiency in dystrophin. In this study, an established phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer coupled to a cell-penetrating peptide was employed for the specific removal of exon 23 in the mutated mouse dystrophin gene transcript. Using DIGE analysis, we could show the reversal of secondary pathobiochemical abnormalities in the dystrophic diaphragm following exon-23 skipping. In analogy to the restoration of dystrophin, β-dystroglycan and neuronal nitric oxide synthase, the muscular dystrophy-associated differential expression of calsequestrin, adenylate kinase, aldolase, mitochondrial creatine kinase and cvHsp was reversed in treated muscle fibres. Hence, the re-establishment of Dp427 coded by the transcript missing exon 23 has counter-acted dystrophic alterations in Ca2+-handling, nucleotide metabolism, bioenergetic pathways and cellular stress response. This clearly establishes the exon-skipping approach as a realistic treatment strategy for diminishing diverse downstream alterations in dystrophinopathy.
antisense oligomer; DIGE; exon skipping; mdx; muscular dystrophy
An 18-year-old boy was admitted with chest discomfort, nausea, and dyspnea at rest. At the age of 3 years, he underwent muscle biopsy and dystrophin gene analysis owing to an enlarged calf muscle and elevated serum kinase level (6,378 U/L) without overt weakness; based on the results, Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) was diagnosed. The dystrophin gene showed deletion of exons 45 to 49. He remained ambulant and could step upstairs without significant difficulties. A chest roentgenogram showed cardiomegaly (cardiothoracic ratio, 54%), and his electrocardiogram (ECG) showed abnormal ST-T wave, biatrial enlargement, and left ventricular hypertrophy. The 2-dimensional and M-mode ECGs showed a severely dilated left ventricular cavity with diffuse hypokinesis. The systolic indices were reduced, including fractional shortening (9%) and ejection fraction (19%). Despite receiving intensive medical treatment, he died from congestive heart failure 5 months after the initial cardiac symptoms. We report a case of BMD with early-onset dilated cardiomyopathy associated with deletion of exons 45 to 49. Early cardiomyopathy can occur in BMD patients with certain genotypes; therefore, careful follow-up is required even in patients with mild phenotypes of BMD.
Becker muscular dystrophy; Early onset cardiomyopathy; Genotype
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) are X-linked recessive disorders caused by mutations of the DMD gene located at Xp21. In DMD patients, dystrophin is virtually absent; whereas BMD patients have 10% to 40% of the normal amount. Deletions in the dystrophin gene represent 65% of mutations in DMD/BMD patients. To explain the contribution of immunohistochemical and genetic analysis in the diagnosis of these dystrophies, we present 10 cases of DMD/BMD with particular features. We have analyzed the patients with immunohistochemical staining and PCR multiplex to screen for exons deletions. Determination of the quantity and distribution of dystrophin by immunohistochemical staining can confirm the presence of dystrophinopathy and allows differentiation between DMD and BMD, but dystrophin staining is not always conclusive in BMD. Therefore, only identification involved mutation by genetic analysis can establish a correct diagnosis.
Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy (DMD and BMD) are X-linked diseases resulting from a defect in the dystrophin gene located on Xp21. DMD is the most frequent neuromuscular disease in humans (1/3500 male newborn). Deletions in the dystrophin gene represent 65% of mutations in DMD/BMD patients. We have analyzed DNA from 72 Moroccan patients with DMD/BMD using the multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to screen for exon deletions within the dystrophin gene, and to estimate the frequency of these abnormalities. We found dystrophin gene deletions in 37 cases. Therefore the frequency in Moroccan DMD/BMD patients is about 51.3%. All deletions were clustered in the two known hot-spots regions, and in 81% of cases deletions were detected in the region from exon 43 to exon 52. These findings are comparable to those reported in other studies. It is important to note that in our population, we can first search for deletions of DMD gene in the most frequently deleted exons determined by this study. This may facilitate the molecular diagnosis of DMD and BMD in our country.
We report clinical safety and biochemical efficacy from a dose-ranging study of intravenously administered AVI-4658 phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
We undertook an open-label, phase 2, dose-escalation study (0·5, 1·0, 2·0, 4·0, 10·0, and 20·0 mg/kg bodyweight) in ambulant patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy aged 5–15 years with amenable deletions in DMD. Participants had a muscle biopsy before starting treatment and after 12 weekly intravenous infusions of AVI-4658. The primary study objective was to assess safety and tolerability of AVI-4658. The secondary objectives were pharmacokinetic properties and the ability of AVI-4658 to induce exon 51 skipping and dystrophin restoration by RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and immunoblotting. The study is registered, number NCT00844597.
19 patients took part in the study. AVI-4658 was well tolerated with no drug-related serious adverse events. AVI-4658 induced exon 51 skipping in all cohorts and new dystrophin protein expression in a significant dose-dependent (p=0·0203), but variable, manner in boys from cohort 3 (dose 2 mg/kg) onwards. Seven patients responded to treatment, in whom mean dystrophin fluorescence intensity increased from 8·9% (95% CI 7·1–10·6) to 16·4% (10·8–22·0) of normal control after treatment (p=0·0287). The three patients with the greatest responses to treatment had 21%, 15%, and 55% dystrophin-positive fibres after treatment and these findings were confirmed with western blot, which showed an increase after treatment of protein levels from 2% to 18%, from 0·9% to 17%, and from 0% to 7·7% of normal muscle, respectively. The dystrophin-associated proteins α-sarcoglycan and neuronal nitric oxide synthase were also restored at the sarcolemma. Analysis of the inflammatory infiltrate indicated a reduction of cytotoxic T cells in the post-treatment muscle biopsies in the two high-dose cohorts.
The safety and biochemical efficacy that we present show the potential of AVI-4658 to become a disease-modifying drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
UK Medical Research Council; AVI BioPharma.
The dystrophin gene, which is mutated in patients with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, is the largest known human gene. Five alternative promoters have been characterized until now. Here we show that a novel dystrophin isoform with a different first exon can be produced through transcription initiation at a previously unidentified alternative promoter. The case study presented is that of a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who had a deletion extending from the 5' end of the dystrophin gene to exon 2, including all promoters previously mapped in the 5' part of the gene. Transcripts from lymphoblastoid cells were found to contain sequences corresponding to exon 3, indicating the presence of new promoter upstream of this exon. The nucleotide sequence of amplified cDNA corresponding to the 5' end of the new transcript indicated that the 5' end of exon 3 was extended by 9 codons, only the last (most 3') of which codes for methionine. The genomic nucleotide sequence upstream from the new exon, as determined using inverse polymerase chain reaction, revealed the presence of sequences similar to a TATA box, an octamer motif and an MEF-2 element. The identified promoter/exon did not map to intron 2, as might have been expected, but to a position more than 500 kb upstream of the most 5' of the previously identified promoters, thereby adding 500 kb to the dystrophin gene. The sequence of part of the new promoter region is very similar to that of certain medium reiteration frequency repetitive sequences. These findings may help us understand the molecular evolution of the dystrophin gene.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe and the most prevalent form of muscular dystrophy, characterized by rapid progression of muscle degeneration. Antisense-mediated exon skipping is currently one of the most promising therapeutic options for DMD. However, unmodified antisense oligos such as morpholinos require frequent (weekly or bi-weekly) injections. Recently, new generation morpholinos such as vivo-morpholinos are reported to lead to extensive and prolonged dystrophin expression in the dystrophic mdx mouse, an animal model of DMD. The vivo-morpholino contains a cell-penetrating moiety, octa-guanidine dendrimer. Here, we sought to test the efficacy of multiple exon skipping of exons 6–8 with vivo-morpholinos in the canine X-linked muscular dystrophy, which harbors a splice site mutation at the boundary of intron 6 and exon 7. We designed and optimized novel antisense cocktail sequences and combinations for exon 8 skipping and demonstrated effective exon skipping in dystrophic dogs in vivo. Intramuscular injections with newly designed cocktail oligos led to high levels of dystrophin expression, with some samples similar to wild-type levels. This is the first report of successful rescue of dystrophin expression with morpholino conjugates in dystrophic dogs. Our results show the potential of phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer conjugates as therapeutic agents for DMD.
A milestone of molecular medicine is the identification of dystrophin gene mutation as the cause of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Over the last 2 decades, major advances in dystrophin biology and gene delivery technology have created an opportunity to treat DMD with gene therapy. Remarkable success has been achieved in treating dystrophic mice. Several gene therapy strategies, including plasmid transfer, exon skipping, and adeno-associated virus-mediated microdystrophin therapy, have entered clinical trials. However, therapeutic benefit has not been realized in DMD patients. Bridging the gap between mice and humans is no doubt the most pressing issue facing DMD gene therapy now. In contrast to mice, dystrophin-deficient dogs are genetically and phenotypically similar to human patients. Preliminary gene therapy studies in the canine model may offer critical insights that cannot be obtained from murine studies. It is clear that the canine DMD model may represent an important link between mice and humans. Unfortunately, our current knowledge of dystrophic dogs is limited, and the full picture of disease progression remains to be clearly defined. We also lack rigorous outcome measures (such as in situ force measurement) to monitor therapeutic efficacy in dystrophic dogs. Undoubtedly, maintaining a dystrophic dog colony is technically demanding, and the cost of dog studies cannot be underestimated. A carefully coordinated effort from the entire DMD community is needed to make the best use of the precious dog resource. Successful DMD gene therapy may depend on valid translational studies in dystrophin-deficient dogs.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; gene therapy; dystrophin; adeno-associated virus; exon-skipping; canine model
Antisense oligonucleotide-induced exon skipping is a promising approach for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We have systemically administered an antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) targeting dystrophin exons 6 and 8 to a dog with canine X-linked muscular dystrophy in Japan (CXMDJ) lacking exon 7 and achieved recovery of dystrophin in skeletal muscle. To date, however, antisense chemical compounds used in DMD animal models have not been directly applied to a DMD patient having the same type of exon deletion. We recently identified a DMD patient with an exon 7 deletion and tried direct translation of the antisense PMO used in dog models to the DMD patient's cells.
We converted fibroblasts of CXMDJ and the DMD patient to myotubes by FACS-aided MyoD transduction. Antisense PMOs targeting identical regions of dog and human dystrophin exons 6 and 8 were designed. These antisense PMOs were mixed and administered as a cocktail to either dog or human cells in vitro. In the CXMDJ and human DMD cells, we observed a similar efficacy of skipping of exons 6 and 8 and a similar extent of dystrophin protein recovery. The accompanying skipping of exon 9, which did not alter the reading frame, was different between cells of these two species.
Antisense PMOs, the effectiveness of which has been demonstrated in a dog model, achieved multi-exon skipping of dystrophin gene on the FACS-aided MyoD-transduced fibroblasts from an exon 7-deleted DMD patient, suggesting the feasibility of systemic multi-exon skipping in humans.
Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies (DMD and BMD) are X-linked recessive neuromuscular disorders caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene affecting approximately 1 in 3,500 males. The human dystrophin gene spans > 2,200 kb, or roughly 0.1% of the genome, and is composed of 79 exons. The mutational spectrum of disease-causing alleles, including exonic copy number variations (CNVs), is complex. Deletions account for approximately 65% of DMD mutations and 85% of BMD mutations. Duplications occur in approximately 6–10% of males with either DMD or BMD. The remaining 30–35% of mutations consist of small deletions, insertions, point mutations, or splicing mutations, most of which introduce a premature stop codon. Laboratory analysis of dystrophin can be used to confirm a clinical diagnosis of DMD, characterize the type of dystrophin mutation, and perform prenatal testing and carrier testing for females. Current dystrophin diagnostic assays involve a variety of methodologies, including multiplex PCR, Southern blot analysis, MLPA, DOVAM-S, and SCAIP; however, these methods are time-consuming, laborious, and do not accurately detect duplication mutations in the dystrophin gene. Furthermore, carrier testing in females is often difficult when a related affected male is unavailable. Here we describe the development, design, validation, and implementation of a high-resolution CGH microarray-based approach capable of accurately detecting both deletions and duplications in the dystrophin gene. This assay can be readily adopted by clinical molecular testing laboratories and represents a rapid, cost-effective approach for screening a large gene, such as dystrophin.
dystrophin; microarray; CGH array; Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; DMD; Becker Muscular Dystrophy; BMD; exonic-copy number variation; CNV
Dystrophin, the protein product of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) gene, was studied in 19 patients with Xp21 disorders and in 25 individuals with non-Xp21 muscular dystrophy. Antibodies raised to seven different regions spanning most of the protein were used for immunocytochemistry. In all patients specific dystrophin staining anomalies were detected and correlated with clinical severity and also gene deletion. In patients with Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) the anomalies detected ranged from inter- and intra-fibre variation in labelling intensity with the same antibody or several antibodies to general reduction in staining and discontinuous staining. In vitro evidence of abnormal dystrophin breakdown was observed reanalysing the muscle of patients, with BMD and not that of non-Xp21 dystrophies, after it has been stored for several months. A number of patients with DMD showed some staining but this did not represent a diagnostic problem. Based on the data presented, it was concluded that immunocytochemistry is a powerful technique in the prognostic diagnosis of Xp21 muscular dystrophies.