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1.  A reporter mouse for optical imaging of inflammation in mdx muscles 
Skeletal Muscle  2015;5:15.
Background
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is due to mutations in the gene coding for human DMD; DMD is characterized by progressive muscle degeneration, inflammation, fat accumulation, and fibrosis. The mdx mouse model of DMD lacks dystrophin protein and undergoes a predictable disease course. While this model has been a valuable resource for pre-clinical studies aiming to test therapeutic compounds, its utility is compromised by a lack of reliable biochemical tools to quantifiably assay muscle disease. Additionally, there are few non-invasive assays available to researchers for measuring early indicators of disease progression in mdx mice.
Methods
Mdx mice were crossed to knock-in mice expressing luciferase from the Cox2 promoter. These reporter mice (Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/−) were created to serve as a tool for researchers to evaluate muscle inflammation. Luciferase expression was assayed by immunohistochemistry to insure that it correlated with muscle lesions. The luciferase signal was quantified by optical imaging and luciferase assays to verify that the signal correlated with muscle damage. As proof of principle, Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/− mice were also treated with prednisolone to validate that a reduction in luciferase signal correlated with prednisone treatment.
Results
In this investigation, a novel reporter mouse (Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/− mice) was created and validated for non-invasive quantification of muscle inflammation in vivo. In this dystrophic mouse, luciferase is expressed from cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox2) expressing cells and bioluminescence is detected by optical imaging. Bioluminescence is significantly enhanced in damaged muscle of exercised Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/− mice compared to non-exercised Cox2FLuc/+DMD+/+ mice. Moreover, the Cox2 bioluminescent signal is reduced in Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/− mice in response to a course of steroid treatment. Reduction in bioluminescence is detectable prior to measurable therapy-elicited improvements in muscle strength, as assessed by traditional means. Biochemical assay of luciferase provides a second means to quantify muscle inflammation.
Conclusions
The Cox2FLuc/+DMD−/− mouse is a novel tool to evaluate the therapeutic benefits of drugs intended to target inflammatory aspects of dystrophic pathology. This mouse model will be a useful adjunct to traditional outcome measures in assessing potential therapeutic compounds.
doi:10.1186/s13395-015-0042-x
PMCID: PMC4422315  PMID: 25949789
mdx; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Inflammation; Imaging; Reporter mouse; Immune cells; Cox2; Cyclooxygenase 2; Luciferase
2.  Enalapril treatment discloses an early role of angiotensin II in inflammation- and oxidative stress-related muscle damage in dystrophic mdx mice☆ 
Pharmacological Research  2011;64(5):482-492.
Graphical abstract
Highlights
► 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.
doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2011.06.002
PMCID: PMC3184479  PMID: 21689754
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
3.  Early Treatment with Lisinopril and Spironolactone Preserves Cardiac and Skeletal Muscle in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Mice 
Circulation  2011;124(5):582-588.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.031716
PMCID: PMC3150227  PMID: 21768542
cardiomyopathy; muscles; aldosterone antagonist
4.  Modulation by prednisolone of calcium handling in skeletal muscle cells. 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1995;116(7):2811-2816.
1. Increased calcium (Ca2+) influx has been incriminated as a potential pathological mechanism in the chronic skeletal muscle degeneration exhibited by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients. We have studied the influence of the glucocorticoid alpha-methylprednisolone (PDN), the only drug known to have a beneficial effect on the degenerative course of DMD, on Ca2+ handling in the C2 skeletal muscle cell line. 2. PDN, when added 3 days (when myoblasts start to fuse into myotubes) after cell seeding, led to a 2 to 4 fold decrease in cellular Ca2+ uptake. This decrease was independent of the extracellular Ca2+ concentration applied to cells. The effect took at least 24 h in order to become established (PDN of 10(-5) M) and took longer for lower PDN concentrations (EC50 of ca. 10(-6) M at day 5, 10(-6.5) M at day 7 and 10(-7.5) M at day 9 in culture). 3. Cellular calcium accumulation was also decreased in PDN-treated myotubes exposed to 45Ca(2+)-containing medium for 1 to 6 days. 4. No effect of PDN was seen on 45Ca2+ efflux; a decrease in the amount of 45Ca2+ released was observed due to the reduction of cellular 45Ca2+ loading. 5. PDN treatment led to an approximately 2 fold decrease in basal cytosolic Ca2+ concentration. 6. Three antioxidant drugs (lazaroids), previously shown to enhance in vitro skeletal muscle cell differentiation to the same extent as PDN, induced a similar decrease in Ca2+ influx. 7. Our results suggest that long-term incubation of C2 cells with PDN leads to a decrease of the size of the cellular Ca2+ pools and to reduced resting cytosolic Ca2+ levels. Part of the beneficial effect of PDN in DMD patients could be attributed to a reduction of Ca2+ influx and of the size of Ca2+ pools in dystrophic muscle fibres.
Images
PMCID: PMC1909214  PMID: 8680710
5.  Eplerenone for early cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 
The Lancet. Neurology  2014;14(2):153-161.
Summary
Background
Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of death in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and myocardial damage precedes decline in left ventricular systolic function. We tested the efficacy of eplerenone on top of background therapy in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy with early myocardial disease.
Methods
In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, boys from three centres in the USA aged 7 years or older with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myocardial damage by late gadolinium enhancement cardiac MRI and preserved ejection fraction received either eplerenone 25 mg or placebo orally, every other day for the first month and once daily thereafter, in addition to background clinician-directed therapy with either angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). Computer-generated randomisation was done centrally using block sizes of four and six, and only the study statistician and the investigational pharmacy had the preset randomisation assignments. The primary outcome was change in left ventricular circumferential strain (Ecc) at 12 months, a measure of contractile dysfunction. Safety was established through serial serum potassium levels and measurement of cystatin C, a non-creatinine measure of kidney function. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01521546.
Findings
Between Jan 26, 2012, and July 3, 2013, 188 boys were screened and 42 were enrolled. 20 were randomly assigned to receive eplerenone and 22 to receive placebo, of whom 20 in the eplerenone group and 20 in the placebo group completed baseline, 6-month, and 12-month visits. After 12 months, decline in left ventricular circumferential strain was less in those who received eplerenone than in those who received placebo (median ΔEcc 1.0 [IQR 0.3–2.2]vs2.2 [1.3–3.1]; p=0.020). Cystatin C concentrations remained normal in both groups, and all non-haemolysed blood samples showed normal potassium concentrations. One 23-year-old patient in the placebo group died of fat embolism, and another patient in the placebo group withdrew from the trial to address long-standing digestive issues. All other adverse events were mild: short-lived headaches coincident with seasonal allergies occurred in one patient given eplerenone, flushing occurred in one patient given placebo, and anxiety occurred in another patient given placebo.
Interpretation
In boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and preserved ejection fraction, addition of eplerenone to background ACEI or ARB therapy attenuates the progressive decline in left ventricular systolic function. Early use of available drugs warrants consideration in this population at high risk of cardiac death, but further studies are needed to determine the effect of combination cardioprotective therapy on event-free survival in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Funding
BallouSkies, Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy, US National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and US National Institutes of Health.
doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70318-7
PMCID: PMC4361281  PMID: 25554404
6.  Autologous bone marrow mononuclear cell transplantation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a case report 
Patient: Male, 9
Final Diagnosis: Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Symptoms: Hyporeflexia • hypotonia • weaknes of lower limbs
Medication: —
Clinical Procedure: —
Specialty: Neurology
Objective:
Congenital defects/diseases
Background:
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal, genetic, progressive, degenerating muscle disorder. Current treatment options are palliative. Newer options of cellular therapy promise to alter the disease process. Preclinical studies have successfully tested myogenic, neurogenic potential and dystrophin expression of bone marrow mononuclear cells.
Case Report:
We treated a 9-year-old boy suffering from DMD with serial autologous bone marrow mononuclear cell transplantations followed by multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Brooke-Vignos score was 10 and he was wheelchair-bound. Over 36 months, gradual progressive improvement was noticed in muscle strength, ambulation with assistive devices, fine motor movements, Brooke-Vignos score, and functional independence measure score. Nine months after the transplantation, electromyography findings showed development of new normal motor unit potentials of the vastus medialis muscle.
Conclusions:
Magnetic resonance imaging scan of musculoskeletal systems showed no increase in fatty infiltration. This case report provides early investigative findings or the restorative effects of cellular therapy in DMD.
doi:10.12659/AJCR.890078
PMCID: PMC3976215  PMID: 24711886
Stem Cell Transplantation; Autologous Bone Marrow Mono Nuclear Cells; Electromyography; Muscular Dystrophy; Duchenne – congenital
7.  Physical training in boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: the protocol of the No Use is Disuse study 
BMC Pediatrics  2010;10:55.
Background
"Use it or lose it" is a well known saying which is applicable to boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Besides the direct effects of the muscular dystrophy, the increasing effort to perform activities, the fear of falling and the use of personal aids indirectly impair leg and arm functions as a result of disuse. Physical training could oppose this secondary physical deterioration. The No Use is Disuse (NUD) study is the first study in human subjects with DMD that will examine whether a low-intensity physical training is beneficial in terms of preservation of muscle endurance and functional abilities. The study consists of two training intervention studies: study 1 "Dynamic leg and arm training for ambulant and recently wheelchair-dependent boys with DMD and, study 2 "Functional training with arm support for boys with DMD who have been confined to a wheelchair for several years". This paper describes the hypotheses and methods of the NUD study.
Methods
Study 1 is an explorative randomized controlled trial with multiple baseline measurements. Thirty boys with a DNA-established diagnosis of DMD will be included. The intervention consists of a six-months physical training during which boys train their legs and arms with active and/or assisted cycling training equipment. The primary study outcomes are muscle endurance and functional abilities, assessed with a Six-Minute Bicycle Test and the Motor Function Measure. Study 2 has a within-group repeated measurements design and will include ten boys with DMD who have already been confined to a wheelchair for several years. The six-months physical training program consists of 1) a computer-assisted training and 2) a functional training with an arm support. The primary study outcome is functional abilities of the upper extremity, assessed with the Action Research Arm Test.
Discussion
The NUD study will fill part of the gap in the current knowledge about the possible effects of training in boys with DMD and will increase insight into what type of exercise should be recommended to boys with DMD. The study will finish at the end of 2010 and results are expected in 2011.
Trial registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register1631
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-10-55
PMCID: PMC2929216  PMID: 20691042
8.  Molecular mechanism of sphingosine-1-phosphate action in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2013;7(1):41-54.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal muscle-wasting disease. Studies in Drosophila showed that genetic increase of the levels of the bioactive sphingolipid sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) or delivery of 2-acetyl-5-tetrahydroxybutyl imidazole (THI), an S1P lyase inhibitor, suppresses dystrophic muscle degeneration. In the dystrophic mouse (mdx), upregulation of S1P by THI increases regeneration and muscle force. S1P can act as a ligand for S1P receptors and as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. Because Drosophila has no identified S1P receptors and DMD correlates with increased HDAC2 levels, we tested whether S1P action in muscle involves HDAC inhibition. Here we show that beneficial effects of THI treatment in mdx mice correlate with significantly increased nuclear S1P, decreased HDAC activity and increased acetylation of specific histone residues. Importantly, the HDAC2 target microRNA genes miR-29 and miR-1 are significantly upregulated, correlating with the downregulation of the miR-29 target Col1a1 in the diaphragm of THI-treated mdx mice. Further gene expression analysis revealed a significant THI-dependent decrease in inflammatory genes and increase in metabolic genes. Accordingly, S1P levels and functional mitochondrial activity are increased after THI treatment of differentiating C2C12 cells. S1P increases the capacity of the muscle cell to use fatty acids as an energy source, suggesting that THI treatment could be beneficial for the maintenance of energy metabolism in mdx muscles.
doi:10.1242/dmm.013631
PMCID: PMC3882047  PMID: 24077965
HDAC; S1P; THI; dys; Dystrophin; mdx
9.  Preclinical Studies in the mdx Mouse Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy with the Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Givinostat 
Molecular Medicine  2013;19(1):79-87.
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.
doi:10.2119/molmed.2013.00011
PMCID: PMC3667212  PMID: 23552722
10.  Andrographolide attenuates skeletal muscle dystrophy in mdx mice and increases efficiency of cell therapy by reducing fibrosis 
Skeletal Muscle  2014;4:6.
Background
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by the absence of the cytoskeletal protein dystrophin, muscle wasting, increased transforming growth factor type beta (TGF-β) signaling, and fibrosis. At the present time, the only clinically validated treatments for DMD are glucocorticoids. These drugs prolong muscle strength and ambulation of patients for a short term only and have severe adverse effects. Andrographolide, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone, has traditionally been used for the treatment of colds, fever, laryngitis, and other infections with no or minimal side effects. We determined whether andrographolide treatment of mdx mice, an animal model for DMD, affects muscle damage, physiology, fibrosis, and efficiency of cell therapy.
Methods
mdx mice were treated with andrographolide for three months and skeletal muscle histology, creatine kinase activity, and permeability of muscle fibers were evaluated. Fibrosis and TGF-β signaling were evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence and Western blot analyses. Muscle strength was determined in isolated skeletal muscles and by a running test. Efficiency of cell therapy was determined by grafting isolated skeletal muscle satellite cells onto the tibialis anterior of mdx mice.
Results
mdx mice treated with andrographolide exhibited less severe muscular dystrophy than untreated dystrophic mice. They performed better in an exercise endurance test and had improved muscle strength in isolated muscles, reduced skeletal muscle impairment, diminished fibrosis and a significant reduction in TGF-β signaling. Moreover, andrographolide treatment of mdx mice improved grafting efficiency upon intramuscular injection of dystrophin-positive satellite cells.
Conclusions
These results suggest that andrographolide could be used to improve quality of life in individuals with DMD.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-4-6
PMCID: PMC4021597  PMID: 24655808
Andrographolide; mdx; DMD; Fibrosis; Skeletal muscle; Cell therapy
11.  Early pathogenesis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy modelled in patient-derived human induced pluripotent stem cells 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:12831.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive and fatal muscle degenerating disease caused by a dystrophin deficiency. Effective suppression of the primary pathology observed in DMD is critical for treatment. Patient-derived human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are a promising tool for drug discovery. Here, we report an in vitro evaluation system for a DMD therapy using hiPSCs that recapitulate the primary pathology and can be used for DMD drug screening. Skeletal myotubes generated from hiPSCs are intact, which allows them to be used to model the initial pathology of DMD in vitro. Induced control and DMD myotubes were morphologically and physiologically comparable. However, electric stimulation of these myotubes for in vitro contraction caused pronounced calcium ion (Ca2+) influx only in DMD myocytes. Restoration of dystrophin by the exon-skipping technique suppressed this Ca2+ overflow and reduced the secretion of creatine kinase (CK) in DMD myotubes. These results suggest that the early pathogenesis of DMD can be effectively modelled in skeletal myotubes induced from patient-derived iPSCs, thereby enabling the development and evaluation of novel drugs.
doi:10.1038/srep12831
PMCID: PMC4642533  PMID: 26290039
12.  Increased sphingosine-1-phosphate improves muscle regeneration in acutely injured mdx mice 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:20.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-3-20
PMCID: PMC3750760  PMID: 23915702
13.  Functional Substitution by TAT-Utrophin in Dystrophin-Deficient Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000083.
James Ervasti and colleagues show that injection of a truncated form of utrophin transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, and reduced serum levels of creatine kinase in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy.
Background
The loss of dystrophin compromises muscle cell membrane stability and causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy and/or various forms of cardiomyopathy. Increased expression of the dystrophin homolog utrophin by gene delivery or pharmacologic up-regulation has been demonstrated to restore membrane integrity and improve the phenotype in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse. However, the lack of a viable therapy in humans predicates the need to explore alternative methods to combat dystrophin deficiency. We investigated whether systemic administration of recombinant full-length utrophin (Utr) or ΔR4-21 “micro” utrophin (μUtr) protein modified with the cell-penetrating TAT protein transduction domain could attenuate the phenotype of mdx mice.
Methods and Findings
Recombinant TAT-Utr and TAT-μUtr proteins were expressed using the baculovirus system and purified using FLAG-affinity chromatography. Age-matched mdx mice received six twice-weekly intraperitoneal injections of either recombinant protein or PBS. Three days after the final injection, mice were analyzed for several phenotypic parameters of dystrophin deficiency. Injected TAT-μUtr transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, reduced serum levels of creatine kinase (11,290±920 U versus 5,950±1,120 U; PBS versus TAT), the prevalence of muscle degeneration/regeneration (54%±5% versus 37%±4% of centrally nucleated fibers; PBS versus TAT), the susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced force drop (72%±5% versus 40%±8% drop; PBS versus TAT), and increased specific force production (9.7±1.1 N/cm2 versus 12.8±0.9 N/cm2; PBS versus TAT).
Conclusions
These results are, to our knowledge, the first to establish the efficacy and feasibility of TAT-utrophin-based constructs as a novel direct protein-replacement therapy for the treatment of skeletal and cardiac muscle diseases caused by loss of dystrophin.
Editors' Summary
Background
Muscular dystrophies are genetic (inherited) diseases in which the body's muscles gradually weaken and degenerate. The commonest and most severe muscular dystrophy—Duchenne muscular dystrophy—affects 1 in 3,500 boys (girls can be carriers of the disease but rarely have any symptoms). At birth, these boys seem normal but the symptoms of their disease begin to appear in early childhood. Affected children may initially have difficulty walking or find it to hard to sit or stand independently. As they age, their muscle strength progressively declines and most affected boys are confined to a wheelchair by the time they are 12 years old. The muscles involved in breathing also weaken and the heart muscle becomes enlarged. Few boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy live beyond their early 20 s, usually dying from breathing or heart problems. At present there is no cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, physical therapy and treatment with steroids can prolong the ability of patients to walk, and assisted ventilation can help with their breathing.
Why Was This Study Done?
In all muscular dystrophies, one of the proteins needed to build and maintain healthy muscles is missing or nonfunctional because of a genetic change (mutation). In Duchenne muscular dystrophy the mutation is in dystrophin, a protein that is involved in the formation of the dystrophin–glycoprotein complex. This complex normally sits in the membranes that surround muscle fibers and protects these membranes from damage during muscle contraction. Consequently, in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the muscle fiber membranes become damaged and eventually the muscle fibers die. Thus, if functional dystrophin could be introduced into the muscles of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, it might be possible to reduce their symptoms and prolong their lives. Indeed, the effects of dystrophin deficiency in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse can be reduced by the introduction of an artificial gene that expresses dystrophin or the closely related protein utrophin. Unfortunately, this gene therapy approach has not yet been effectively demonstrated in humans. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether utrophin protein can be introduced directly into dystrophin-deficient mouse muscles by exposing the muscle cells to utrophin fused to the protein transduction domain of the HIV-1 TAT protein. Most proteins will not cross cell membranes, but proteins fused to this cell-penetrating domain readily enter many cell types, including muscle cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers injected full-length utrophin fused to the TAT protein transduction domain (TAT-Utr) and a short, “micro” version of utrophin fused to the same domain (TAT-μUtr) into the abdomens of mdx mice and looked to see where the proteins ended up. After two injections, both proteins were present in a wide range of tissues and organs, including several types of muscle. However, the levels of TAT-Utr were much lower than those of TAT-μUtr. Next, the researchers injected another group of mdx mice with TAT-μUtr six times over three weeks. Again, TAT-μUtr was present in all the tissues that the researchers examined. Furthermore, μUtr–glycoprotein complexes formed in the TAT-μUtr injected mdx mice and the membrane integrity and overall health of the dystrophin-deficient muscles of the mdx mice improved compared to mdx mice treated with saline. Finally, the researchers report, TAT-μUtr injections greatly improved the contractile performance of the muscles of the mdx mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first demonstration that injection of TAT-utrophin protein fusions may provide a way to treat muscular dystrophies caused by the loss of dystrophin. However, although this direct protein-replacement therapy looks hopeful, approaches that work in animals do not necessarily work in people. In particular, for this approach to work in patients with muscular dystrophy, it would be necessary to give frequent, high-dose injections of the TAT-μUtr fusion protein, a process that could eventually trigger a deleterious immune response. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that by combining this novel approach with other approaches that also increase utrophin expression, it might be possible to prevent or delay the development of the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000085.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on muscular dystrophy and ongoing research into possible treatments (in English and Spanish)
The US National Human Genome Research Institute also provides basic information on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and links to additional resources
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages for patients and caregivers on muscular dystrophy
The Nemours Foundation provides information about muscular dystrophy for parents, children, and teenagers
For links to further resources on muscular dystrophy, see also MedlinePlus
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000083
PMCID: PMC2680620  PMID: 19478831
14.  Stem cells isolated from human dental pulp and amniotic fluid improve skeletal muscle histopathology in mdx/SCID mice 
Introduction
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), caused by a lack of the functional structural protein dystrophin, leads to severe muscle degeneration where the patients are typically wheelchair-bound and die in their mid-twenties from cardiac or respiratory failure or both. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of human dental pulp stem cells (hDPSCs) and human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) to differentiate toward a skeletal myogenic lineage using several different protocols in order to determine the optimal conditions for achieving myogenic commitment and to subsequently evaluate their contribution in the improvement of the pathological features associated with dystrophic skeletal muscle when intramuscularly injected into mdx/SCID mice, an immune-compromised animal model of DMD.
Methods
Human DPSCs and AFSCs were differentiated toward myogenic lineage in vitro through the direct co-culture with a myogenic cell line (C2C12 cells) and through a preliminary demethylation treatment with 5-Aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5-Aza), respectively. The commitment and differentiation of both hDPSCs and hAFSCs were evaluated by immunofluorescence and Western blot analysis. Subsequently, hDPSCs and hAFSCs, preliminarily demethylated and pre-differentiated toward a myogenic lineage for 2 weeks, were injected into the dystrophic gastrocnemius muscles of mdx/SCID mice. After 1, 2, and 4 weeks, the gastrocnemius muscles were taken for immunofluorescence and histological analyses.
Results
Both populations of cells engrafted within the host muscle of mdx/SCID mice and through a paracrine effect promoted angiogenesis and reduced fibrosis, which eventually led to an improvement of the histopathology of the dystrophic muscle.
Conclusion
This study shows that hAFSCs and hDPSCs represent potential sources of stem cells for translational strategies to improve the histopathology and potentially alleviate the muscle weakness in patients with DMD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13287-015-0141-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13287-015-0141-y
PMCID: PMC4552417  PMID: 26316011
15.  Investigation of Debio 025, a cyclophilin inhibitor, in the dystrophic mdx mouse, a model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2008;155(4):574-584.
Background and purpose:
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle wasting disorder caused by the absence of the cytoskeletal protein dystrophin. This leads to muscle cell death accompanied by chronic inflammation. Cyclosporin A (CsA) is a powerful immunosuppressive drug, which has been proposed for DMD treatment. CsA also directly regulates the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), which participates in cell death pathways through the inhibition of cyclophilin D. Here, we evaluated whether Debio 025, a cyclophilin inhibitor with no immunosuppressive activity, improves the dystrophic condition in a mouse model of DMD, through regulation of mPTP.
Experimental approach:
The potency of Debio 025 to protect mouse dystrophic cells against mitochondria-mediated death was assessed by caspase-3 activity and calcium retention capacity assays. Mdx5Cv mice (3-week-old) were treated daily by gavage for 2 weeks with Debio 025 (10, 30 or 100 mg kg−1), CsA (10 mg kg−1) or placebo. The effects on muscle necrosis and function were measured.
Key results:
In vitro investigations showed protective effect of low concentrations of Debio 025 against cell death. Histology demonstrated that Debio 025 partially protected the diaphragm and soleus muscles against necrosis (10 and 100 mg kg−1, respectively). Hindlimb muscles from mice receiving Debio 025 at 10 mg kg−1 relaxed faster, showed alteration in the stimulation frequency-dependent recruitment of muscle fibres and displayed a higher resistance to mechanical stress.
Conclusions and implications:
Debio 025 partially improved the structure and the function of the dystrophic mouse muscle, suggesting that therapies targeting the mPTP may be helpful to DMD patients.
doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.285
PMCID: PMC2579666  PMID: 18641676
dystrophic mdx mouse; cyclophilin D; mitochondrial permeability transition pore; cyclosporin A; myotube cell death; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; pharmacotherapy
16.  Muscle Structure Influences Utrophin Expression in mdx Mice 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004431.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle wasting disorder caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. To examine the influence of muscle structure on the pathogenesis of DMD we generated mdx4cv:desmin double knockout (dko) mice. The dko male mice died of apparent cardiorespiratory failure at a median age of 76 days compared to 609 days for the desmin−/− mice. An ∼2.5 fold increase in utrophin expression in the dko skeletal muscles prevented necrosis in ∼91% of 1a, 2a and 2d/x fiber-types. In contrast, utrophin expression was reduced in the extrasynaptic sarcolemma of the dko fast 2b fibers leading to increased membrane fragility and dystrophic pathology. Despite lacking extrasynaptic utrophin, the dko fast 2b fibers were less dystrophic than the mdx4cv fast 2b fibers suggesting utrophin-independent mechanisms were also contributing to the reduced dystrophic pathology. We found no overt change in the regenerative capacity of muscle stem cells when comparing the wild-type, desmin−/−, mdx4cv and dko gastrocnemius muscles injured with notexin. Utrophin could form costameric striations with α-sarcomeric actin in the dko to maintain the integrity of the membrane, but the lack of restoration of the NODS (nNOS, α-dystrobrevin 1 and 2, α1-syntrophin) complex and desmin coincided with profound changes to the sarcomere alignment in the diaphragm, deposition of collagen between the myofibers, and impaired diaphragm function. We conclude that the dko mice may provide new insights into the structural mechanisms that influence endogenous utrophin expression that are pertinent for developing a therapy for DMD.
Author Summary
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle wasting disorder caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Utrophin is structurally similar to dystrophin and improving its expression can prevent skeletal muscle necrosis in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Consequently, improving utrophin expression is a primary therapeutic target for treating DMD. While the downstream mechanisms that influence utrophin expression and stability are well described, the upstream mechanisms are less clear. Here, we found that perturbing the highly ordered structure of striated muscle by genetically deleting desmin from mdx mice increased utrophin expression to levels that prevented skeletal muscle necrosis. Thus, the mdx:desmin double knockout mice may prove valuable in determining the upstream mechanisms that influence utrophin expression to develop a therapy for DMD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004431
PMCID: PMC4055409  PMID: 24922526
17.  Exclusive skeletal muscle correction does not modulate dystrophic heart disease in the aged mdx model of Duchenne cardiomyopathy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(13):2634-2641.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by severe degeneration and necrosis of both skeletal and cardiac muscle. While many experimental therapies have shown great promise in treating skeletal muscle disease, an effective therapy for Duchenne cardiomyopathy remains a challenge in large animal models and human patients. The current views on cardiac consequences of skeletal muscle-centered therapy are controversial. Studies performed in young adult mdx mice (a mild DMD mouse model) have yielded opposing results. Since mdx mice do not develop dystrophic cardiomyopathy until ≥21 months of age, we reasoned that old mdx mice may represent a better model to assess the impact of skeletal muscle rescue on dystrophic heart disease. Here, we aged skeletal muscle-specific micro-dystrophin transgenic mdx mice to 23 months and examined the cardiac phenotype. As expected, transgenic mdx mice had minimal skeletal muscle disease and they also outperformed original mdx mice on treadmill running. On cardiac examination, the dystrophin-null heart of transgenic mdx mice displayed severe cardiomyopathy matching that of non-transgenic mdx mice. Specifically, both the strains showed similar heart fibrosis and cardiac function deterioration in systole and diastole. Cardiac output and ejection fraction were also equally compromised. Our results suggest that skeletal muscle rescue neither aggravates nor alleviates cardiomyopathy in aged mdx mice. These findings underscore the importance of treating both skeletal and cardiac muscles in DMD therapy.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt112
PMCID: PMC3674804  PMID: 23459935
18.  Targeting TGF-β Signaling by Antisense Oligonucleotide-mediated Knockdown of TGF-β Type I Receptor 
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by lack of functional dystrophin and results in progressive myofiber damage and degeneration. In addition, impaired muscle regeneration and fibrosis contribute to the progressive pathology of DMD. Importantly, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is implicated in DMD pathology and is known to stimulate fibrosis and inhibit muscle regeneration. In this study, we present a new strategy to target TGF-β signaling cascades by specifically inhibiting the expression of TGF-β type I receptor TGFBR1 (ALK5). Antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) were designed to specifically induce exon skipping of mouse ALK5 transcripts. AON-induced exon skipping of ALK5 resulted in specific downregulation of full-length receptor transcripts in vitro in different cell types, repression of TGF-β activity, and enhanced C2C12 myoblast differentiation. To determine the effect of these AONs in dystrophic muscles, we performed intramuscular injections of ALK5 AONs in mdx mice, which resulted in a decrease in expression of fibrosis-related genes and upregulation of Myog expression compared to control AON-injected muscles. In summary, our study presents a novel method to target TGF-β signaling cascades with potential beneficial effects for DMD.
doi:10.1038/mtna.2014.7
PMCID: PMC4011125  PMID: 24691207
ALK5; antisense oligonucleotides; Duchenne muscular dystrophy
19.  Anti-Dystrophin T Cell Responses in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Prevalence and a Glucocorticoid Treatment Effect 
Human Gene Therapy  2013;24(9):797-806.
Abstract
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) typically occurs as a result of truncating mutations in the DMD gene that result in a lack of expression of the dystrophin protein in muscle fibers. Various therapies under development are directed toward restoring dystrophin expression at the subsarcolemmal membrane, including gene transfer. In a trial of intramuscular adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated delivery of a therapeutic minidystrophin construct, we identified in two of six subjects the presence of a population of T cells that had been primed to recognize dystrophin epitopes before transgene delivery. As the presence of preexisting T cell immunity may have a significant effect on the success of therapeutic approaches for restoring dystrophin, we sought to determine the prevalence of such immunity within a DMD cohort from our Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic. Dystrophin-specific T cell immunity was evaluated in subjects with DMD who were either receiving the glucocorticoid steroid prednisone (n=24) or deflazacort (n=29), or who were not receiving steroids (n=17), as well as from normal age-matched control subjects (n=21). We demonstrate that increasing age correlates with an increased risk for the presence of anti-dystrophin T cell immunity, and that treatment with either corticosteroid decreases risk compared with no treatment, suggesting that steroid therapy in part may derive some of its benefit through modulation of T cell responses. The frequency of dystrophin-specific T cells detected by enzyme-linked immunospot assay was lower in subjects treated with deflazacort versus prednisone, despite similar overall corticosteroid exposure, suggesting that the effects of the two corticosteroids may not be identical in patients with DMD. T cells targeted epitopes upstream and downstream of the dystrophin gene mutation and involved the CD4+ helper and/or CD8+ cytotoxic subsets. Our data confirm the presence of preexisting circulating T cell immunity to dystrophin in a sizable proportion of patients with DMD, and emphasize the need to consider this in the design and interpretation of clinical gene therapy trials.
Flanigan and colleagues characterize the prevalence of preexisting dystrophin-specific T cells in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients. They identify CD4+ and CD8+ T cell populations targeting epitopes upstream and downstream of dystrophin mutations in a significant fraction of patients. They further demonstrate a lower frequency of dystrophin-specific T cells in patients receiving glucocorticoid therapy. These findings suggest important considerations for future DMD gene therapy trials and offer new insight into the mechanism of glucocorticoid therapy for DMD.
doi:10.1089/hum.2013.092
PMCID: PMC3768239  PMID: 24010700
20.  Non-Invasive MRI and Spectroscopy of mdx Mice Reveal Temporal Changes in Dystrophic Muscle Imaging and in Energy Deficits 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112477.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disruption of dystrophin protein expression results in repeated muscle injury and chronic inflammation. Magnetic resonance imaging shows promise as a surrogate outcome measure in both DMD and rehabilitation medicine that is capable of predicting clinical benefit years in advance of functional outcome measures. The mdx mouse reproduces the dystrophin deficiency that causes DMD and is routinely used for preclinical drug testing. There is a need to develop sensitive, non-invasive outcome measures in the mdx model that can be readily translatable to human clinical trials. Here we report the use of magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy techniques for the non-invasive monitoring of muscle damage in mdx mice. Using these techniques, we studied dystrophic mdx muscle in mice from 6 to 12 weeks of age, examining both the peak disease phase and natural recovery phase of the mdx disease course. T2 and fat-suppressed imaging revealed significant levels of tissue with elevated signal intensity in mdx hindlimb muscles at all ages; spectroscopy revealed a significant deficiency of energy metabolites in 6-week-old mdx mice. As the mdx mice progressed from the peak disease stage to the recovery stage of disease, each of these phenotypes was either eliminated or reduced, and the cross-sectional area of the mdx muscle was significantly increased when compared to that of wild-type mice. Histology indicates that hyper-intense MRI foci correspond to areas of dystrophic lesions containing inflammation as well as regenerating, degenerating and hypertrophied myofibers. Statistical sample size calculations provide several robust measures with the ability to detect intervention effects using small numbers of animals. These data establish a framework for further imaging or preclinical studies, and they support the development of MRI as a sensitive, non-invasive outcome measure for muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112477
PMCID: PMC4229202  PMID: 25390038
21.  Calcium influx inhibition by steroids and analogs in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1998;124(8):1751-1759.
Glucocorticoids, namely α-methylprednisolone (PDN) and deflazacort, are the only drugs reported to have a beneficial effect on the degenerative course of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Increased cytosolic calcium concentrations ([Ca2+]c) have been implicated as one of the pathological events responsible for the degeneration of dystrophic skeletal muscles. In previous studies, we have demonstrated that PDN treatment of both normal and dystrophic murine skeletal muscle cells was able to normalize elevated [Ca2+]c and improved myogenesis. Here we have investigated the mechanism underlying the effects of glucocorticoids on cellular Ca2+ influx into C2C12 skeletal muscle cells.Long-term incubation of C2C12 myocytes with PDN was necessary to observe a reduction of 45Ca2+ influx. PDN was most effective in inhibiting 45Ca2+ uptake when added for 4 days (at the time of fusion of myoblasts into myotubes) and to a lesser extent, when added after fusion. It was ineffective when added to C2C12 cells at the myoblast stage. Short PDN incubation times, at the time of fusion were insufficient to elicit a response.Several steroids were tested for their ability to inhibit 45Ca2+ influx in C2C12 myocytes. All four glucocorticoids examined were able to reduce Ca2+ influx, dexamethasone being the most potent (IC50 3.14±0.34×10−8 M). Mineralocorticoids (aldosterone and 11-deoxycorticosterone) were also able to reduce Ca2+ influx.The vitamin E-derived lazaroid U-83836E and the glucocorticoid-derived lazaroid U-74389G also elicited a decrease in Ca2+ influx, but higher concentrations were necessary. Because both glucocorticoids and lazaroids display antioxidant properties, but U-83836E is devoid of glucocorticoid activity, the reduction in Ca2+ influx was suspected to be triggered via an antioxidant mechanism.To test this hypothesis, we assessed the action of several antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, 2-tert.-butyl-4-methoxyphenol (BHA), 2,6-di-tert.-butyl-4-methyl-phenol (BHT) and nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), on 45Ca2+ influx. None of these agents had an effect on 45Ca2+ influx. In addition, several oxidants were tested (either acutely or chronically) for their ability to elicit 45Ca2+ influx in C2C12 myocytes and were found to be inactive.The involvement of the glucocorticoid receptor on the modulation of Ca2+ influx was investigated. The glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone (code name RU38486, 10−6 M) caused a shift of two orders of magnitude of the PDN response. However, neither actinomycin D nor cycloheximide affected the response to PDN.Results with the phospholipase A2 inhibitor, manoalide, suggest that glucocorticoid-induced protein synthesis (e.g. enhanced stimulation of lipocortin) does not play a role in the reduction of calcium influx.Our results suggest that steroids elicit a decrease in calcium influx in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells. This decrease is not due to an antioxidant mechanism or to a mechanism which requires gene expression. Since mineralocorticoids and U-83836E also had similar effects, the mechanism could belong to the non-genomic effects of corticoids (e.g. membrane stabilization). The beneficial effect of glucocorticoids in DMD could be attributed to a reduction of the pathological increase in Ca2+ influx via an effect on the sarcolemma.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0702036
PMCID: PMC1565578  PMID: 9756393
Antioxidant; C2C12 cells; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; calcium; glucocorticoid; lazaroid; manoalide; mifepristone; oxidant; skeletal muscle
22.  Increased levels of interleukin-6 exacerbate the dystrophic phenotype in mdx mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2015;24(21):6041-6053.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by progressive lethal muscle degeneration and chronic inflammatory response. The mdx mouse strain has served as the animal model for human DMD. However, while DMD patients undergo extensive necrosis, the affected muscles of adult mdx mice rapidly regenerates and regains structural and functional integrity. The basis for the mild effects observed in mice compared with the lethal consequences in humans remains unknown. In this study, we provide evidence that interleukin-6 (IL-6) is causally linked to the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy. We report that forced expression of IL-6, in the adult mdx mice, recapitulates the severe phenotypic characteristics of DMD in humans. Increased levels of IL-6 exacerbate the dystrophic muscle phenotype, sustaining inflammatory response and repeated cycles of muscle degeneration and regeneration, leading to exhaustion of satellite cells. The mdx/IL6 mouse closely approximates the human disease and more faithfully recapitulates the disease progression in humans. This study promises to significantly advance our understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to DMD.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddv323
PMCID: PMC4599671  PMID: 26251044
23.  Prednisolone Attenuates Improvement of Cardiac and Skeletal Contractile Function and Histopathology by Lisinopril and Spironolactone in the mdx Mouse Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88360.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an inherited disease that causes striated muscle weakness. Recently, we showed therapeutic effects of the combination of lisinopril (L), an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, and spironolactone (S), an aldosterone antagonist, in mice lacking dystrophin and haploinsufficient for utrophin (utrn+/−;mdx, het mice); both cardiac and skeletal muscle function and histology were improved when these mice were treated early with LS. It was unknown to what extent LS treatment is effective in the most commonly used DMD murine model, the mdx mouse. In addition, current standard-of-care treatment for DMD is limited to corticosteroids. Therefore, potentially useful alternative or additive drugs need to be both compared directly to corticosteroids and tested in presence of corticosteroids. We evaluated the effectiveness of this LS combination in the mdx mouse model both compared with corticosteroid treatment (prednisolone, P) or in combination (LSP). We tested the additional combinatorial treatment containing the angiotensin II receptor blocker losartan (T), which is widely used to halt and treat the developing cardiac dysfunction in DMD patients as an alternative to an ACE inhibitor. Peak myocardial strain rate, assessed by magnetic resonance imaging, showed a negative impact of P, whereas in both diaphragm and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle contractile function was not significantly impaired by P. Histologically, P generally increased cardiac damage, estimated by percentage area infiltrated by IgG as well as by collagen staining. In general, groups that only differed in the presence or absence of P (i.e. mdx vs. P, LS vs. LSP, and TS vs. TSP) demonstrated a significant detrimental impact of P on many assessed parameters, with the most profound impact on cardiac pathology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088360
PMCID: PMC3923790  PMID: 24551095
24.  Poloxomer 188 Has a Deleterious Effect on Dystrophic Skeletal Muscle Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91221.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked, fatal muscle wasting disease for which there is currently no cure and limited palliative treatments. Poloxomer 188 (P188) is a tri-block copolymer that has been proposed as a potential treatment for cardiomyopathy in DMD patients. Despite the reported beneficial effects of P188 on dystrophic cardiac muscle function, the effects of P188 on dystrophic skeletal muscle function are relatively unknown. Mdx mice were injected intraperitoneally with 460 mg/kg or 30 mg/kg P188 dissolved in saline, or saline alone (control). The effect of single-dose and 2-week daily treatment was assessed using a muscle function test on the Tibialis Anterior (TA) muscle in situ in anaesthetised mice. The test comprises a warm up, measurement of the force-frequency relationship and a series of eccentric contractions with a 10% stretch that have previously been shown to cause a drop in maximum force in mdx mice. After 2 weeks of P188 treatment at either 30 or 460 mg/kg/day the drop in maximum force produced following eccentric contractions was significantly greater than that seen in saline treated control mice (P = 0.0001). Two week P188 treatment at either dose did not significantly change the force-frequency relationship or maximum isometric specific force produced by the TA muscle. In conclusion P188 treatment increases susceptibility to contraction-induced injury following eccentric contractions in dystrophic skeletal muscle and hence its suitability as a potential therapeutic for DMD should be reconsidered.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091221
PMCID: PMC3958340  PMID: 24642557
25.  The Polyproline Site in Hinge 2 Influences the Functional Capacity of Truncated Dystrophins 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000958.
Mutations in dystrophin can lead to Duchenne muscular dystrophy or the more mild form of the disease, Becker muscular dystrophy. The hinge 3 region in the rod domain of dystrophin is particularly prone to deletion mutations. In-frame deletions of hinge 3 are predicted to lead to BMD, however the severity of disease can vary considerably. Here we performed extensive structure-function analyses of truncated dystrophins with modified hinges and spectrin-like repeats in mdx mice. We found that the polyproline site in hinge 2 profoundly influences the functional capacity of a microdystrophinΔR4-R23/ΔCT with a large deletion in the hinge 3 region. Inclusion of polyproline in microdystrophinΔR4-R23/ΔCT led to small myofibers (12% smaller than wild-type), Achilles myotendinous disruption, ringed fibers, and aberrant neuromuscular junctions in the mdx gastrocnemius muscles. Replacing hinge 2 of microdystrophinΔR4-R23/ΔCT with hinge 3 significantly improved the functional capacity to prevent muscle degeneration, increase muscle fiber area, and maintain the junctions. We conclude that the rigid α-helical structure of the polyproline site significantly impairs the functional capacity of truncated dystrophins to maintain appropriate connections between the cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix.
Author Summary
Dystrophin functions like a large molecular spring between the muscle cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix in order to protect the membrane from contraction-induced injury. Mutations in dystrophin can lead to a severe muscle wasting disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in young boys. DMD patients are typically wheelchair bound by 9–13 years of age and die at approximately 30 years. There are also mutations within the dystrophin gene that lead to internal truncations of non-essential regions, such as the internal rod domain that leads to a mild form of the disease called Becker Muscular Dystrophy. However, these internal truncations frequently occur at a “hot spot” within the rod domain where the resulting disease severity is difficult to predict. Here we found that consecutive proline residues, that function much like a molecular ruler, can dramatically influence the function of these internally truncated dystrophins within skeletal muscles. Using this information, we designed a dystrophin mini-gene that can accommodate the limited packaging size of recombinant adeno-associated virus. This virus can deliver the dystrophin mini-gene to most muscles throughout a dystrophic mouse to prevent muscle degeneration and partially restore muscle function.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000958
PMCID: PMC2873924  PMID: 20502633

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