Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked, lethal, degenerative disease that results from mutations in the dystrophin gene, causing necrosis and inflammation in skeletal muscle tissue. Treatments that reduce muscle fiber destruction and immune cell infiltration can ameliorate DMD pathology. We treated the mdx mouse, a model for DMD, with the immunosuppressant drug rapamycin (RAPA) both locally and systemically to examine its effects on dystrophic mdx muscles. We observed a significant reduction of muscle fiber necrosis in treated mdx mouse tibialis anterior (TA) and diaphragm (Dia) muscles 6 wks post-treatment. This effect was associated with a significant reduction in infiltration of effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in skeletal muscle tissue, while Foxp3+ regulatory T cells were preserved. Because RAPA exerts its effects through the mammalian target of RAPA (mTOR), we studied the activation of mTOR in mdx TA and Dia with and without RAPA treatment. Surprisingly, mTOR activation levels in mdx TA were not different from control C57BL/10 (B10). However, mTOR activation was different in Dia between mdx and B10; mTOR activation levels did not rise between 6 and 12 wks of age in mdx Dia muscle, whereas a rise in mTOR activation level was observed in B10 Dia muscle. Furthermore, mdx Dia, but not TA, muscle mTOR activation was responsive to RAPA treatment.
Histone deacetylases inhibitors (HDACi) include a growing number of drugs that share the ability to inhibit the enzymatic activity of some or all the HDACs. Experimental and preclinical evidence indicates that these epigenetic drugs not only can be effective in the treatment of malignancies, inflammatory diseases and degenerative disorders, but also in the treatment of genetic diseases, such as muscular dystrophies. The ability of HDACi to counter the progression of muscular dystrophies points to HDACs as a crucial link between specific genetic mutations and downstream determinants of disease progression. It also suggests the contribution of epigenetic events to the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophies. Here we describe the experimental evidence supporting the key role of HDACs in the control of the transcriptional networks underlying the potential of dystrophic muscles either to activate compensatory regeneration or to undergo fibroadipogenic degeneration. Studies performed in mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) indicate that dystrophin deficiency leads to deregulated HDAC activity, which perturbs downstream networks and can be restored directly, by HDAC blockade, or indirectly, by reexpression of dystrophin. This evidence supports the current view that HDACi are emerging candidate drugs for pharmacological interventions in muscular dystrophies, and reveals unexpected common beneficial outcomes of pharmacological treatment or gene therapy.
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) have been described to induce the production of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and have been reported to be increased in different fibrotic disorders. Skeletal muscle fibrosis is a common feature of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The mdx mouse diaphragm is a good model for DMD since it reproduces the muscle degenerative and fibrotic changes. Fibronectin (FN) and proteoglycans (PG) are some of the ECM proteins upregulated in dystrophic conditions. In view of understanding the fibrotic process involved in DMD we have isolated fibroblasts from dystrophic mdx diaphragms. Here we report that regardless of the absence of degenerative myofibers, adult mdx diaphragm fibroblasts show increased levels of FN and condroitin/dermatan sulfate PGs synthesis. Fibroblasts isolated from non fibrotic tissue, such as 1 week old mice diaphragms or skin, do not present elevated FN levels. Furthermore, mdx fibroblast conditioned media is able to stimulate FN synthesis in control fibroblasts. Autocrine TGF-β signaling was unaltered in mdx cells. When control fibroblasts are exposed to TGF-β and CTGF, FN increases as expected. Paradoxically, in mdx cells it decreases in a concentration dependent manner and this decrease is not due to a downregulation of FN synthesis. According to this data we hypothesize that a pathological environment is able to reprogram fibroblasts into an activated phenotype which can be maintained through generations.
Muscular dystrophy; Fibronectin; Proteoglycans; Fibrosis; TGF-β; CTGF; Fibroblasts
Gene therapy studies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have focused on viral vector-mediated gene transfer to provide therapeutic protein expression or treatment with drugs to limit dystrophic changes in muscle. The pathological activation of the nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling pathway has emerged as an important cause of dystrophic muscle changes in muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, activation of NF-κB may inhibit gene transfer by promoting inflammation in response to the transgene or vector. Therefore, we hypothesized that inhibition of pathological NF-κB activation in muscle would complement the therapeutic benefits of dystrophin gene transfer in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Systemic gene transfer using serotype 9 adeno-associated viral (AAV9) vectors is promising for treatment of preclinical models of DMD because of vector tropism to cardiac and skeletal muscle. In quadriceps of C57BL/10ScSn-Dmdmdx/J (mdx) mice, the addition of octalysine (8K)–NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO)-binding domain (8K-NBD) peptide treatment to AAV9 minidystrophin gene delivery resulted in increased levels of recombinant dystrophin expression suggesting that 8K-NBD treatment promoted an environment in muscle tissue conducive to higher levels of expression. Indices of necrosis and regeneration were diminished with AAV9 gene delivery alone and to a greater degree with the addition of 8K-NBD treatment. In diaphragm muscle, high-level transgene expression was achieved with AAV9 minidystoophin gene delivery alone; therefore, improvements in histological and physiological indices were comparable in the two treatment groups. The data support benefit from 8K-NBD treatment to complement gene transfer therapy for DMD in muscle tissue that receives incomplete levels of transduction by gene transfer, which may be highly significant for clinical applications of muscle gene delivery.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common childhood myopathy, characterized by muscle loss and cardiorespiratory failure. While the genetic basis of DMD is well established, secondary mechanisms associated with dystrophic pathophysiology are not fully clarified yet. In order to obtain new insights into the molecular mechanisms of muscle dystrophy during earlier stages of the disease, we performed a comparative proteomic profile of the spared extraocular muscles (EOM) vs. affected diaphragm from the mdx mice, using a label based shotgun proteomic approach. Out of the 857 identified proteins, 42 to 62 proteins had differential abundance of peptide ions. The calcium-handling proteins sarcalumenin and calsequestrin-1 were increased in control EOM compared with control DIA, reinforcing the view that constitutional properties of EOM are important for their protection against myonecrosis. The finding that galectin-1 (muscle regeneration), annexin A1 (anti-inflammatory) and HSP 47 (fibrosis) were increased in dystrophic diaphragm provides novel insights into the mechanisms through which mdx affected muscles are able to counteract dystrophy, during the early stage of the disease. Overall, the shotgun technique proved to be suitable to perform quantitative comparisons between distinct dystrophic muscles and allowed the suggestion of new potential biomarkers and drug targets for dystrophinopaties.
Nearly-universal cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) contributes to heart failure and death. As DMD patients show myocardial fibrosis well before functional impairment, we postulated that earlier treatment using drugs with anti-fibrotic effect may be beneficial.
Methods and Results
Three groups of 10 utrn+/−;mdx or “het” mice with skeletal myopathy and cardiomyopathy that closely mimics clinical DMD were studied. One het group received spironolactone and lisinopril starting at 8 weeks-of-life (het-treated-8), a second received the same starting at 4 weeks-of-life (het-treated-4), and the third het group was untreated. At 20 weeks, all mice had normal EFs though circumferential strain rate was abnormal (−0.21±0.08) in untreated hets. This improved to −0.40±0.07 in het-treated-8 mice (p=0.003), and further improved to −0.56±0.10 in het-treated-4 mice (p=0.014 for het-treated-4 vs. het-treated-8). Treated mice showed less cardiomyocyte damage, with a 44% reduction in intra-cardiomyocyte serum IgG localization in het-treated-8 mice (p<0.0001), and further 53% reduction in het-treated-4 mice (p=0.0003 vs. het-treated-8); matrix metalloproteinases were similarly reduced. Cardiac, limb and diaphragm function by ex vivo muscle testing remained at 80% of normal with early treatment compared to a decline to 40% of normal skeletal muscle function without treatment.
These findings offer clinically-available medications with proven anti-fibrotic effect as a new therapeutic strategy in DMD. Early initiation greatly attenuated myocardial disease and, for the first time with these drugs, improved skeletal myopathy. Thus, early initiation of such agents warrants further clinical evaluation to maintain ambulatory, respiratory and cardiac function for DMD and related myopathies.
cardiomyopathy; muscles; aldosterone antagonist
Presently, there is no effective treatment for the lethal muscle wasting disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Here we show that increased sphingosine-1-phoshate (S1P) through direct injection or via the administration of the small molecule 2-acetyl-4(5)-tetrahydroxybutyl imidazole (THI), an S1P lyase inhibitor, has beneficial effects in acutely injured dystrophic muscles of mdx mice.
We treated mdx mice with and without acute injury and characterized the histopathological and functional effects of increasing S1P levels. We also tested exogenous and direct administration of S1P on mdx muscles to examine the molecular pathways under which S1P promotes regeneration in dystrophic muscles.
Short-term treatment with THI significantly increased muscle fiber size and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle specific force in acutely injured mdx limb muscles. In addition, the accumulation of fibrosis and fat deposition, hallmarks of DMD pathology and impaired muscle regeneration, were lower in the injured muscles of THI-treated mdx mice. Furthermore, increased muscle force was observed in uninjured EDL muscles with a longer-term treatment of THI. Such regenerative effects were linked to the response of myogenic cells, since intramuscular injection of S1P increased the number of Myf5nlacz/+ positive myogenic cells and newly regenerated myofibers in injured mdx muscles. Intramuscular injection of biotinylated-S1P localized to muscle fibers, including newly regenerated fibers, which also stained positive for S1P receptor 1 (S1PR1). Importantly, plasma membrane and perinuclear localization of phosphorylated S1PR1 was observed in regenerating muscle fibers of mdx muscles. Intramuscular increases of S1P levels, S1PR1 and phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6 (P-rpS6), and elevated EDL muscle specific force, suggest S1P promoted the upregulation of anabolic pathways that mediate skeletal muscle mass and function.
These data show that S1P is beneficial for muscle regeneration and functional gain in dystrophic mice, and that THI, or other pharmacological agents that raise S1P levels systemically, may be developed into an effective treatment for improving muscle function and reducing the pathology of DMD.
Calpains likely play a role in the pathogenesis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Accordingly, calpain inhibition may provide therapeutic benefit to DMD patients. In the present study, we sought to measure benefit from administration of a novel calpain inhibitor, C101, in a canine muscular dystrophy model. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that treatment with C101 mitigates progressive weakness and severe muscle pathology observed in young dogs with golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD). Young (6-week-old) GRMD dogs were treated daily with either C101 (17 mg/kg twice daily oral dose, n = 9) or placebo (vehicle only, n = 7) for 8 weeks. A battery of functional tests, including tibiotarsal joint angle, muscle/fat composition, and pelvic limb muscle strength were performed at baseline and every 2 weeks during the 8-week study. Results indicate that C101-treated GRMD dogs maintained strength in their cranial pelvic limb muscles (tibiotarsal flexors) while placebo-treated dogs progressively lost strength. However, concomitant improvement was not observed in posterior pelvic limb muscles (tibiotarsal extensors). C101 treatment did not mitigate force drop following repeated eccentric contractions and no improvement was seen in the development of joint contractures, lean muscle mass, or muscle histopathology. Taken together, these data do not support the hypothesis that treatment with C101 mitigates progressive weakness or ameliorates severe muscle pathology observed in young dogs with GRMD.
muscular dystrophy; animal; calpain; skeletal muscle; protease; canine
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal X-linked genetic disorder of skeletal muscle caused by mutation in dystrophin gene. Although the degradation of skeletal muscle extracellular matrix, inflammation and fibrosis are the common pathological features in DMD, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. In this study, we have investigated the role and the mechanisms by which increased levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) protein causes myopathy in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice. The levels of MMP-9 but not tissue inhibitor of MMPs were drastically increased in skeletal muscle of mdx mice. Besides skeletal muscle, infiltrating macrophages were found to contribute significantly to the elevated levels of MMP-9 in dystrophic muscle. In vivo administration of a nuclear factor-kappa B inhibitory peptide, NBD, blocked the expression of MMP-9 in dystrophic muscle of mdx mice. Deletion of Mmp9 gene in mdx mice improved skeletal muscle structure and functions and reduced muscle injury, inflammation and fiber necrosis. Inhibition of MMP-9 increased the levels of cytoskeletal protein β-dystroglycan and neural nitric oxide synthase and reduced the amounts of caveolin-3 and transforming growth factor-β in myofibers of mdx mice. Genetic ablation of MMP-9 significantly augmented the skeletal muscle regeneration in mdx mice. Finally, pharmacological inhibition of MMP-9 activity also ameliorated skeletal muscle pathogenesis and enhanced myofiber regeneration in mdx mice. Collectively, our study suggests that the increased production of MMP-9 exacerbates dystrophinopathy and MMP-9 represents as one of the most promising therapeutic targets for the prevention of disease progression in DMD.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a degenerative muscle wasting disease caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Dystrophic muscle is characterized by chronic inflammation, and inflammatory mediators could be promising targets for innovative therapeutic interventions. We analyzed muscle biopsy samples of DMD-affected children to characterize interleukin (IL)-17 and Forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) expression levels and to identify possible correlations with clinical status.
Expression levels of IL-17, Foxp3, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), IL-6, and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) were analyzed by real-time PCR in muscle biopsy samples from patients with DMD (n = 27) and juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) (n = 8). Motor outcome of patients with DMD was evaluated by North Star Ambulatory Assessment score.
In DMD, we found higher levels of IL-17 and lower levels of Foxp3 mRNA compared with those for a typical inflammatory myopathy, JDM. Moreover, the IL-17/Foxp3 ratio was higher in DMD than in JDM biopsy samples. IL-17 mRNA levels appeared to be related to the expression levels of other proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and MCP-1) and significantly associated with clinical outcome of patients.
The association of IL-17 expression with levels of other inflammatory cytokines and with the clinical course of DMD suggests a possible pathogenic role of IL-17.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), loss of the membrane stabilizing protein dystrophin results in myofiber damage. Microinjury to dystrophic myofibers also causes secondary imbalances in sarcolemmic ion permeability and resting membrane potential, which modifies excitation-contraction coupling and increases proinflammatory/apoptotic signaling cascades. Although glucocorticoids remain the standard of care for the treatment of DMD, there is a need to investigate the efficacy of other pharmacological agents targeting the involvement of imbalances in ion flux on dystrophic pathology.
We designed a preclinical trial to investigate the effects of lansoprazole (LANZO) administration, a proton pump inhibitor, on the dystrophic muscle phenotype in dystrophin deficient (mdx) mice. Eight to ten week-old female mice were assigned to one of four treatment groups (n = 12 per group): (1) vehicle control; (2) 5 mg/kg/day LANZO; (3) 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone; and (4) combined treatment of 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone (PRED) and 5 mg/kg/day LANZO. Treatment was administered orally 5 d/wk for 3 months. At the end of the study, behavioral (Digiscan) and functional outcomes (grip strength and Rotarod) were assessed prior to sacrifice. After sacrifice, body, tissue and organ masses, muscle histology, in vitro muscle force, and creatine kinase levels were measured. Mice in the combined treatment groups displayed significant reductions in the number of degenerating muscle fibers and number of inflammatory foci per muscle field relative to vehicle control. Additionally, mice in the combined treatment group displayed less of a decline in normalized forelimb and hindlimb grip strength and declines in in vitro EDL force after repeated eccentric contractions.
Together our findings suggest that combined treatment of LANZO and prednisolone attenuates some components of dystrophic pathology in mdx mice. Our findings warrant future investigation of the clinical efficacy of LANZO and prednisolone combined treatment regimens in dystrophic pathology.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and other types of muscular dystrophies are caused by the loss or alteration of different members of the dystrophin protein complex. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which dystrophin-associated protein abnormalities contribute to the onset of muscular dystrophy may identify new therapeutic approaches to these human disorders. By examining gene expression alterations in mouse skeletal muscle lacking α-dystrobrevin (Dtna−/−), we identified a highly significant reduction of the cholesterol trafficking protein, Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1). Mutations in NPC1 cause a progressive neurodegenerative, lysosomal storage disorder. Transgenic expression of NPC1 in skeletal muscle ameliorates muscular dystrophy in the Dtna−/− mouse (which has a relatively mild dystrophic phenotype) and in the mdx mouse, a model for DMD. These results identify a new compensatory gene for muscular dystrophy and reveal a potential new therapeutic target for DMD.
► An early treatment with enalapril was performed in exercised mdx mice. ► In vivo, enalapril increased mouse fore limb strength dose-dependently. ► Ex vivo, enalapril reduced muscular markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. ► Results corroborate an early role of angiotensin II in muscular dystrophy. ► Pre-clinical evidences of therapeutic interest of ACE inhibitors for therapy of DMD.
Inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE) are clinically used to control cardiomyopathy in patients of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Various evidences suggest potential usefulness of long-term treatment with ACE inhibitors to reduce advanced fibrosis of dystrophic muscle in the mdx mouse model. However, angiotensin II is known to exert pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative actions that might contribute to early events of dystrophic muscle degeneration. The present study has been aimed at evaluating the effects of an early treatment with enalapril on the pathology signs of exercised mdx mouse model. The effects of 1 and 5 mg/kg enalapril i.p. for 4–8 weeks have been compared with those of 1 mg/kg α-methyl-prednisolone (PDN), as positive control. Enalapril caused a dose-dependent increase in fore limb strength, the highest dose leading to a recovery score similar to that observed with PDN. A dose-dependent reduction of superoxide anion production was observed by dihydroethidium staining in tibialis anterior muscle of enalapril-treated mice, approaching the effect observed with PND. In parallel, a significant reduction of the activated form of the pro-inflammatory Nuclear Factor-kB has been observed in gastrocnemious muscle. Histologically, 5 mg/kg enalapril reduced the area of muscle necrosis in both gastrocnemious muscle and diaphragm, without significant effect on non-muscle area. In parallel no significant changes have been observed in both muscle TGF-β1 and myonuclei positive to phosphorylated Smad2/3. Myofiber functional indices were also monitored by microelectrodes recordings. A dose-dependent recovery of macroscopic chloride conductance has been observed upon enalapril treatment in EDL muscle, with minor effects being exerted in diaphragm. However a modest effect, if any, was found on mechanical threshold, a functional index of calcium homeostasis. No recovery was observed in creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. Finally the results suggest the ability of enalapril to blunt angiotensin-II dependent activation of pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant pathways which may be earlier events with respect to the pro-fibrotic ones, and may in part account for both functional impairment and muscle necrosis. The PDN-like profile may corroborate the combined use of the two classes of drugs in DMD patients so to potentiate the beneficial effects at skeletal muscle level, while reducing both spontaneous and PDN-aggravated cardiomyopathy.
DMD, Duchenne muscular dystrophy; ACE, angiotensin converting enzyme; RAS, renin-angiotensin system; Ang II, angiotensin II; PDN, α-methylprednisolone; NF-kB, nuclear factor-kB; TGF-β1, trasforming growth factor β1; EDL, extensor digitorum longus; CK, creatine kinase; LDH, lactate dehydrogenase; gCl, sarcolemmal chloride conductance; gK, sarcolemmal potassium conductance; MT, mechanical threshold; Muscular dystrophy; Pre-clinical pharmacological tests; Angiotensin-II; Inflammation; Oxidative stress
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.
The activation of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) contributes to muscle degeneration that results from dystrophin deficiency in human Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and in the mdx mouse. In dystrophic muscle, NF-κB participates in inflammation and failure of muscle regeneration. Peptides containing the NF-κB Essential Modulator (NEMO) binding domain (NBD) disrupt the IκB kinase complex, thus blocking NF-κB activation. The NBD peptide, which is linked to a protein transduction domain to achieve in vivo peptide delivery to muscle tissue, was systemically delivered to mdx mice for 4 or 7 weeks to study NF-κB activation, histological changes in hind limb and diaphragm muscle and ex vivo function of diaphragm muscle. Decreased NF-κB activation, decreased necrosis and increased regeneration were observed in hind limb and diaphragm muscle in mdx mice treated systemically with NBD peptide, as compared to control mdx mice. NBD peptide treatment resulted in improved generation of specific force and greater resistance to lengthening activations in diaphragm muscle ex vivo. Together these data support the potential of NBD peptides for the treatment of DMD by modulating dystrophic pathways in muscle that are downstream of dystrophin deficiency.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; mdx mouse; histopathology; muscle necrosis; muscle regeneration; specific force; lengthening activation; protein transduction domain; NEMO binding domain peptide; NF-κB
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Therapeutic gene replacement of a dystrophin cDNA into dystrophic muscle can provide functional dystrophin protein to the tissue. However, vector-mediated gene transfer is limited by anti-vector and anti-transgene host immunity that causes rejection of the therapeutic protein. We hypothesized that rapamycin (RAPA) would diminish immunity due to vector-delivered recombinant dystrophin in the adult mdx mouse model for DMD. To test this hypothesis, we injected limb muscle of mdx mice with RAPA-containing, poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) microparticles prior to dystrophin gene transfer and analyzed treated tissue after 6 weeks. RAPA decreased host immunity against vector-mediated dystrophin protein, as demonstrated by decreased cellular infiltrates and decreased anti-dystrophin antibody production. The interpretation of the effect of RAPA on recombinant dystrophin expression was complex because of an effect of PLGA microparticles.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal and incurable muscle degenerative disorder. We identify a function of the protease urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) in mdx mice, a mouse model of DMD. The expression of uPA is induced in mdx dystrophic muscle, and the genetic loss of uPA in mdx mice exacerbated muscle dystrophy and reduced muscular function. Bone marrow (BM) transplantation experiments revealed a critical function for BM-derived uPA in mdx muscle repair via three mechanisms: (1) by promoting the infiltration of BM-derived inflammatory cells; (2) by preventing the excessive deposition of fibrin; and (3) by promoting myoblast migration. Interestingly, genetic loss of the uPA receptor in mdx mice did not exacerbate muscular dystrophy in mdx mice, suggesting that uPA exerts its effects independently of its receptor. These findings underscore the importance of uPA in muscular dystrophy.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal neuromuscular disease for which there is no cure and limited treatment options. Prednisone is currently the first line treatment option for DMD and studies have demonstrated that it improves muscle strength. Although prednisone has been used for the treatment of DMD for decades, the mechanism of action of this drug remains unclear. Recent studies have shown that the α7β1 integrin is a major modifier of disease progression in mouse models of DMD and is therefore a target for drug-based therapies. In this study we examined whether prednisone increased α7β1 integrin levels in mdx mouse and GRMD dog models and myogenic cells from humans with DMD. Our results show that prednisone promotes an increase in α7 integrin protein in cultured myogenic cells and in the muscle of mdx and GRMD animal models of DMD. The prednisone-mediated increase in α7 integrin was associated with increased laminin-α2 in prednisone-treated dystrophin-deficient muscle. Together, our results suggest that prednisone acts in part through increased merosin in the muscle basal lamina and through sarcolemmal stabilization of α7β1 integrin in dystrophin-deficient muscle. These results indicate that therapies that target an increase in muscle α7β1 integrin, its signaling pathways and/or laminin could be therapeutic in DMD.
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 an X-linked, degenerative muscle disease that is exacerbated by secondary inflammation. Here, we characterized the immunological milieu of dystrophic muscle in mdx mice, a model of DMD, to identify potential therapeutic targets. We identified a specific subpopulation of cells expressing the Vβ8.1/8.2 TCR that is predominant among TCR-β+ T cells. These cells expressed high levels of osteopontin (OPN), a cytokine that promotes immune cell migration and survival. Elevated OPN levels correlated with the dystrophic process, since OPN was substantially elevated in the serum of mdx mice and muscle biopsies after disease onset. Muscle biopsies from individuals with DMD also had elevated OPN levels. To test the role of OPN in mdx muscle, mice lacking both OPN and dystrophin were generated and termed double-mutant mice (DMM mice). Reduced infiltration of NKT-like cells and neutrophils was observed in the muscle of DMM mice, supporting an immunomodulatory role for OPN in mdx muscle. Concomitantly, an increase in CD4+ and FoxP3+ Tregs was also observed in DMM muscle, which also showed reduced levels of TGF-β, a known fibrosis mediator. These inflammatory changes correlated with increased strength and reduced diaphragm and cardiac fibrosis. These studies suggest that OPN may be a promising therapeutic target for reducing inflammation and fibrosis in individuals with DMD.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized clinically by severe, progressive loss of skeletal muscle. The phenotype is much less severe in the mdx mouse model of DMD than that seen in patients with DMD. However, a “critical period” has been described for the mdx mouse, during which there is a peak in muscle weakness and degeneration/regeneration between the 2nd and 5th weeks of life. A number of studies have employed small animal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine skeletal muscle in various dystrophic models, but such studies represent a snapshot in time rather than a longitudinal view.
The in vivo cross-sectional T2-weighted image of the healthy (wild type, WT) muscles is homogeneously dark and this homogeneity does not change with time, as there is no disease. We, and others, have shown marked changes in MRI in dystrophic muscle, with multiple, unevenly distributed focal hyperintensities throughout the bulk of the muscles. Here we monitored an mdx mouse using MRI from 5 to 80 weeks of age. Temporal MRI scans show an increase in heterogeneity shortly after the critical period, at 9 and 13 weeks of age, with a decrease in heterogeneity thereafter. The 4.3-fold increase in percent heterogeneity at week 9 and 13 is consistent with the notion of an early critical period described for mdx mice.
Age is a significant variable in quantitative MR studies of the mdx mouse. The mdx mouse is typically studied during the critical period, at a time that most closely mimics the DMD pathology, but the preliminary findings here, albeit based on imaging only one mdx mouse over time, suggest that the changes in MRI can occur shortly after this period, when the muscles are still recovering.
In vivo magnetic resonance imaging; mdx
Limited packaging capacity has hampered adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene therapy for many common genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis (CF) and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Trans-splicing AAV (tsAAV) vectors double AAV packaging capacity but their transduction efficiency has been too low to be useful. We have recently overcome this hurdle by rational vector design. We have shown that a pair of optimized mini-dystrophin tsAAV vectors can reach the same transduction efficiency as that of a single AAV vector after local injection in dystrophic muscle. However, global gene transfer is required to treat diseases like DMD. To test whether systemic delivery can be achieved with tsAAV vectors, we generated a set of optimized alkaline phosphatase (AP) tsAAV vectors. We delivered AAV serotype 9 pseudotyped AP tsAAV intravenously to newborn mice. Six weeks later, we observed high-level transduction in all body skeletal muscle and the heart, the tissues that are affected in DMD. We also detected efficient transduction in the lung, the primary organ affected in CF. Our results provide the first evidence of whole-body transduction with tsAAV vectors and further raise the hope of tsAAV gene therapy for DMD and CF.
Previous work has established the existence of dystrophin–nitric oxide (NO) signaling to histone deacetylases (HDACs) that is deregulated in dystrophic muscles. As such, pharmacological interventions that target HDACs (that is, HDAC inhibitors) are of potential therapeutic interest for the treatment of muscular dystrophies. In this study, we explored the effectiveness of long-term treatment with different doses of the HDAC inhibitor givinostat in mdx mice—the mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This study identified an efficacy for recovering functional and histological parameters within a window between 5 and 10 mg/kg/d of givinostat, with evident reduction of the beneficial effects with 1 mg/kg/d dosage. The long-term (3.5 months) exposure of 1.5-month-old mdx mice to optimal concentrations of givinostat promoted the formation of muscles with increased cross-sectional area and reduced fibrotic scars and fatty infiltration, leading to an overall improvement of endurance performance in treadmill tests and increased membrane stability. Interestingly, a reduced inflammatory infiltrate was observed in muscles of mdx mice exposed to 5 and 10 mg/kg/d of givinostat. A parallel pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic analysis confirmed the relationship between the effective doses of givinostat and the drug distribution in muscles and blood of treated mice. These findings provide the preclinical basis for an immediate translation of givinostat into clinical studies with DMD patients.
Dystrophin deficiency associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) results in chronic inflammation and severe skeletal muscle degeneration, where the extent of muscle fibrosis contributes to disease severity. The microenvironment of dystrophic muscles is associated with variation in levels of markers of degeneration and regeneration. Since in dystrophic muscle apoptosis precedes necrosis, markers of apoptosis can be used as indicators of degeneration, while regeneration can be measured in terms of cytokines and growth factor expression”; and then throughout the text use “markers of apoptosis/degeneration. The present study is an attempt to evaluate the extent of degeneration and regeneration in DMD patient blood. Subjects were 24 boys with DMD diagnosed at the molecular level versus 20 age and socioeconomic matching healthy boys. In their blood, levels of Fas and FasL and Bax/Bcl-2 and plasma DNA fragmentation were measured as markers of apoptosis. The cytokine tumor necrosis factor alfa (TNF-α), and the growth factors: basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were measured as markers of regeneration. Plasma DNA fragmentation (0.38% ± 0.12 vs. 0.2% ± . 0.1.5) and Fas (9.9 ± 2.8 vs. 2 ± 0.1, p < 0.001) together with FasL mRNA expression in circulating lymphocytes (0.47 ± .09 vs. 0.24 ± .04, p < 0.001) were significantly increased in DMD patients compared to controls. There was a significant increase in Bax (0.19 ± 0.7 vs. 0.05 ± 0.1, p < 0.00001) expression and a significant decrease in Bcl-2 protein (6.4 ± 1.6 vs10 ± 2.8, p < 0.00001) as compared to controls. Among markers of regeneration, TNF- α (30.2 ± 9.5 vs. 3.6 ± 0.9) and bFGF (21.7 ± 10.3 vs. 4.75 ± 2.2) were significant increased while VEGF was significantly decreased (190 ± 115 vs. 210 ± 142.) in blood of DMD patients compared to controls. Our results indicate that Fas/FasL and Bax/Bcl-2 are involved in muscle atrophy and degeneration in DMD patients, while regeneration process does not cope with the degeneration.
Apoptosis; basic fibroblast growth factor; Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Restoring dystrophin expression in the muscles of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) may halt or reverse the degenerative wasting and weakness that causes premature death. However, the therapeutic efficacy of an intervention may be limited by the extent of disease progression prior to treatment. In the present study, we considered the potential for ameliorating pathology in a mouse model of advanced-state muscular dystrophy via systemic administration of recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors (rAAV6) encoding a microdystrophin expression construct. Treatment of 20 month-old mdx mice restored body-wide expression of a dystrophin-based protein in striated musculature. In treated old mice, dystrophin expression as a consequence of treatment was associated with improved hindlimb and respiratory muscle morphology and function concomitant with reduced muscle fiber degeneration. The findings demonstrate that an established dystrophic state remains amenable to improvement with appropriate intervention, and by some measures, may even achieve similar benefits as observed with intervention early in disease progression. The capacity to ameliorate pathology in an animal model of an advanced-state muscular dystrophy suggests that interventions ultimately proven to exert a therapeutic effect in young patients may offer benefit to patients with advanced conditions of progressive muscular dystrophy.
gene therapy; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; adeno-associated virus