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1.  Pharmacologic Management of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Target Identification and Preclinical Trials 
ILAR Journal  2014;55(1):119-149.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked human disorder in which absence of the protein dystrophin causes degeneration of skeletal and cardiac muscle. For the sake of treatment development, over and above definitive genetic and cell-based therapies, there is considerable interest in drugs that target downstream disease mechanisms. Drug candidates have typically been chosen based on the nature of pathologic lesions and presumed underlying mechanisms and then tested in animal models. Mammalian dystrophinopathies have been characterized in mice (mdx mouse) and dogs (golden retriever muscular dystrophy [GRMD]). Despite promising results in the mdx mouse, some therapies have not shown efficacy in DMD. Although the GRMD model offers a higher hurdle for translation, dogs have primarily been used to test genetic and cellular therapies where there is greater risk. Failed translation of animal studies to DMD raises questions about the propriety of methods and models used to identify drug targets and test efficacy of pharmacologic intervention. The mdx mouse and GRMD dog are genetically homologous to DMD but not necessarily analogous. Subcellular species differences are undoubtedly magnified at the whole-body level in clinical trials. This problem is compounded by disparate cultures in clinical trials and preclinical studies, pointing to a need for greater rigor and transparency in animal experiments. Molecular assays such as mRNA arrays and genome-wide association studies allow identification of genetic drug targets more closely tied to disease pathogenesis. Genes in which polymorphisms have been directly linked to DMD disease progression, as with osteopontin, are particularly attractive targets.
PMCID: PMC4158345  PMID: 24936034
animal models; drug development; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; golden retriever muscular dystrophy; genome wide association studies; mRNA arrays; mdx mouse; preclinical studies
2.  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.
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).
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC2680620  PMID: 19478831
3.  Alterations of dystrophin associated glycoproteins in the heart lacking dystrophin or dystrophin and utrophin 
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Patients with DMD lack the protein dystrophin, which is widely expressed in striated muscle. In skeletal muscle, the loss of dystrophin results in dramatically decreased expression of the dystrophin associated glycoprotein complex (DGC). Interestingly, in the heart the DGC is normally expressed without dystrophin; this has been attributed to presence of the dystrophin homologue utrophin. We demonstrate here that neither utrophin nor dystrophin are required for the expression of the cardiac DGC. However, alpha-dystroglycan (α-DG), a major component of the DGC, is differentially glycosylated in dystrophin-(mdx) and dystrophin−/utrophin− (dko) deficient mouse hearts. In both models the altered α-DG retains laminin binding activity, but has an altered localization at the sarcolemma. In hearts lacking both dystrophin and utrophin, the alterations in α-DG glycosylation are even more dramatic with changes in gel migration equivalent to 24 ± 3 kDa. These data show that the absence of dystrophin and utrophin alters the processing of α-DG; however it is not clear if these alterations are a consequence of the loss of a direct interaction with dystrophin/utrophin, or results from an indirect response to the presence of severe pathology. Recently there have been great advances in our understanding of the glycosylation of α-DG regarding its role as a laminin receptor. Here we present data that alterations in glycosylation occurs in the hearts of animal models of DMD, but these changes do not affect laminin binding. The physiological consequences of these alterations remain to be determined, but may have significant implications for the development of therapies for DMD.
PMCID: PMC3915414  PMID: 24096570
Dystrophic cardiomyopathy; dystrophin; utrophin; alpha-dystroglycan; glycosylation
4.  The Effects of Low Levels of Dystrophin on Mouse Muscle Function and Pathology 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31937.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe progressive muscular disorder caused by reading frame disrupting mutations in the DMD gene, preventing the synthesis of functional dystrophin. As dystrophin provides muscle fiber stability during contractions, dystrophin negative fibers are prone to exercise-induced damage. Upon exhaustion of the regenerative capacity, fibers will be replaced by fibrotic and fat tissue resulting in a progressive loss of function eventually leading to death in the early thirties. With several promising approaches for the treatment of DMD aiming at dystrophin restoration in clinical trials, there is an increasing need to determine more precisely which dystrophin levels are sufficient to restore muscle fiber integrity, protect against muscle damage and improve muscle function.
To address this we generated a new mouse model (mdx-XistΔhs) with varying, low dystrophin levels (3–47%, mean 22.7%, stdev 12.1, n = 24) due to skewed X-inactivation. Longitudinal sections revealed that within individual fibers, some nuclei did and some did not express dystrophin, resulting in a random, mosaic pattern of dystrophin expression within fibers.
Mdx-XistΔhs, mdx and wild type females underwent a 12 week functional test regime consisting of different tests to assess muscle function at base line, or after chronic treadmill running exercise. Overall, mdx-XistΔhs mice with 3–14% dystrophin outperformed mdx mice in the functional tests. Improved histopathology was observed in mice with 15–29% dystrophin and these levels also resulted in normalized expression of pro-inflammatory biomarker genes, while for other parameters >30% of dystrophin was needed. Chronic exercise clearly worsened pathology, which needed dystrophin levels >20% for protection. Based on these findings, we conclude that while even dystrophin levels below 15% can improve pathology and performance, levels of >20% are needed to fully protect muscle fibers from exercise-induced damage.
PMCID: PMC3281102  PMID: 22359642
5.  Linking cytoarchitecture to metabolism: sarcolemma-associated plectin affects glucose uptake by destabilizing microtubule networks in mdx myofibers 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:14.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is one of the most frequent forms of muscular disorders. It is caused by the absence of dystrophin, a core component of the sarcolemma-associated junctional complex that links the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix. We showed previously that plectin 1f (P1f), one of the major muscle-expressed isoforms of the cytoskeletal linker protein plectin, accumulates at the sarcolemma of DMD patients as well as of mdx mice, a widely studied animal model for DMD.
Based on plectin’s dual role as structural protein and scaffolding platform for signaling molecules, we speculated that the dystrophic phenotype observed after loss of dystrophin was caused, at least to some extent, by excess plectin. Thus, we hypothesized that elimination of plectin expression in mdx skeletal muscle, while probably resulting in an overall more severe phenotype, may lead to a partial phenotype rescue. In particular, we wanted to assess whether excess sarcolemmal plectin contributes to the dysregulation of sugar metabolism in mdx myofibers.
We generated plectin/dystrophin double deficient (dKO) mice by breeding mdx with conditional striated muscle-restricted plectin knockout (cKO) mice. The phenotype of these mice was comparatively analyzed with that of mdx, cKO, and wild-type mice, focusing on structural integrity and dysregulation of glucose metabolism.
We show that the accumulation of plectin at the sarcolemma of mdx muscle fibers hardly compensated for their loss of structural integrity. Instead, it led to an additional metabolic deficit by impairing glucose uptake. While dKO mice suffered from an overall more severe form of muscular dystrophy compared to mdx or plectin-deficient mice, sarcolemmal integrity as well as glucose uptake of their myofibers were restored to normal levels upon ablation of plectin. Furthermore, microtubule (MT) networks in intact dKO myofibers, including subsarcolemmal areas, were found to be more robust than those in mdx mice. Finally, myotubes differentiated from P1f-overexpressing myoblasts showed an impairment of glucose transporter 4 translocation and a destabilization of MT networks.
Based on these results we propose that sarcolemma-associated plectin acts as an antagonist of MT network formation in myofibers, thereby hindering vesicle-mediated (MT-dependent) transport of glucose transporter 4. This novel role of plectin throws a bridge between extra-sarcomeric cytoarchitecture and metabolism of muscle fibers. Our study thus provides new insights into pathomechanisms of plectinopathies and muscular dystrophies in general.
PMCID: PMC3695810  PMID: 23758845
Plectin; Dystrophin; Sarcolemmal integrity; Glucose metabolism; Microtubules
6.  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.
PMCID: PMC4229202  PMID: 25390038
7.  Rapamycin Ameliorates Dystrophic Phenotype in mdx Mouse Skeletal Muscle 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(9-10):917-924.
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.
PMCID: PMC3188871  PMID: 21607286
8.  Micro-dystrophin and follistatin co-delivery restores muscle function in aged DMD model 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(24):4929-4937.
Pharmacologic strategies have provided modest improvement in the devastating muscle-wasting disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Pre-clinical gene therapy studies have shown promise in the mdx mouse model; however, studies conducted after disease onset fall short of fully correcting muscle strength or protecting against contraction-induced injury. Here we examine the treatment effect on muscle physiology in aged dystrophic mice with significant disease pathology by combining two promising therapies: micro-dystrophin gene replacement and muscle enhancement with follistatin, a potent myostatin inhibitor. Individual treatments with micro-dystrophin and follistatin demonstrated marked improvement in mdx mice but were insufficient to fully restore muscle strength and response to injury to wild-type levels. Strikingly, when combined, micro-dystrophin/follistatin treatment restored force generation and conferred resistance to contraction-induced injury in aged mdx mice. Pre-clinical studies with miniature dystrophins have failed to demonstrate full correction of the physiological defects seen in mdx mice. Importantly, the addition of a muscle enhancement strategy with delivery of follistatin in combination with micro-dystrophin gene therapy completely restored resistance to eccentric contraction-induced injury and improved force. Eccentric contraction-induced injury is a pre-clinical parameter relevant to the exercise induced injury that occurs in DMD patients, and herein, we demonstrate compelling evidence for the therapeutic potential of micro-dystrophin/follistatin combinatorial therapy.
PMCID: PMC3895965  PMID: 23863459
9.  Flt-1 haploinsufficiency ameliorates muscular dystrophy phenotype by developmentally increased vasculature in mdx mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(21):4145-4159.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive genetic disease caused by mutations in the gene coding for the protein dystrophin. Recent work demonstrates that dystrophin is also found in the vasculature and its absence results in vascular deficiency and abnormal blood flow. This induces a state of ischemia further aggravating the muscular dystrophy pathogenesis. For an effective form of therapy of DMD, both the muscle and the vasculature need to be addressed. To reveal the developmental relationship between muscular dystrophy and vasculature, mdx mice, an animal model for DMD, were crossed with Flt-1 gene knockout mice to create a model with increased vasculature. Flt-1 is a decoy receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor, and therefore both homozygous (Flt-1−/−) and heterozygous (Flt-1+/−) Flt-1 gene knockout mice display increased endothelial cell proliferation and vascular density during embryogenesis. Here, we show that Flt-1+/− and mdx:Flt-1+/− adult mice also display a developmentally increased vascular density in skeletal muscle compared with the wild-type and mdx mice, respectively. The mdx:Flt-1+/− mice show improved muscle histology compared with the mdx mice with decreased fibrosis, calcification and membrane permeability. Functionally, the mdx:Flt-1+/− mice have an increase in muscle blood flow and force production, compared with the mdx mice. Consequently, the mdx:utrophin−/−:Flt-1+/− mice display improved muscle histology and significantly higher survival rates compared with the mdx:utrophin−/− mice, which show more severe muscle phenotypes than the mdx mice. These data suggest that increasing the vasculature in DMD may ameliorate the histological and functional phenotypes associated with this disease.
PMCID: PMC2951865  PMID: 20705734
10.  Post-natal induction of PGC-1α protects against severe muscle dystrophy independently of utrophin 
Skeletal Muscle  2014;4:2.
Duchenne muscle dystrophy (DMD) afflicts 1 million boys in the US and has few effective treatments. Constitutive transgenic expression of the transcriptional coactivator peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator (PGC)-1α improves skeletal muscle function in the murine “mdx” model of DMD, but how this occurs, or whether it can occur post-natally, is not known. The leading mechanistic hypotheses for the benefits conferred by PGC-1α include the induction of utrophin, a dystrophin homolog, and/or induction and stabilization of the neuromuscular junction.
The effects of transgenic overexpression of PGC-1β, a homolog of PGC-1α in mdx mice was examined using different assays of skeletal muscle structure and function. To formally test the hypothesis that PGC-1α confers benefit in mdx mice by induction of utrophin and stabilization of neuromuscular junction, PGC-1α transgenic animals were crossed with the dystrophin utrophin double knock out (mdx/utrn-/-) mice, a more severe dystrophic model. Finally, we also examined the effect of post-natal induction of skeletal muscle-specific PGC-1α overexpression on muscle structure and function in mdx mice.
We show here that PGC-1β does not induce utrophin or other neuromuscular genes when transgenically expressed in mouse skeletal muscle. Surprisingly, however, PGC-1β transgenesis protects as efficaciously as PGC-1α against muscle degeneration in dystrophin-deficient (mdx) mice, suggesting that alternate mechanisms of protection exist. When PGC-1α is overexpressed in mdx/utrn-/- mice, we find that PGC-1α dramatically ameliorates muscle damage even in the absence of utrophin. Finally, we also used inducible skeletal muscle-specific PGC-1α overexpression to show that PGC-1α can protect against dystrophy even if activated post-natally, a more plausible therapeutic option.
These data demonstrate that PGC-1α can improve muscle dystrophy post-natally, highlighting its therapeutic potential. The data also show that PGC-1α is equally protective in the more severely affected mdx/utrn-/- mice, which more closely recapitulates the aggressive progression of muscle damage seen in DMD patients. The data also identify PGC-1β as a novel potential target, equally efficacious in protecting against muscle dystrophy. Finally, the data also show that PGC-1α and PGC-1β protect against dystrophy independently of utrophin or of induction of the neuromuscular junction, indicating the existence of other mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3914847  PMID: 24447845
PGC-1α; PGC-1β; mdx; Duchenne Muscle Dystrophy; Utrophin; Neuromuscular junction
11.  Targeted Skipping of Human Dystrophin Exons in Transgenic Mouse Model Systemically for Antisense Drug Development 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19906.
Antisense therapy has recently been demonstrated with great potential for targeted exon skipping and restoration of dystrophin production in cultured muscle cells and in muscles of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) patients. Therapeutic values of exon skipping critically depend on efficacy of the drugs, antisense oligomers (AOs). However, no animal model has been established to test AO targeting human dystrophin exon in vivo systemically. In this study, we applied Vivo-Morpholino to the hDMD/mdx mouse, a transgenic model carrying the full-length human dystrophin gene with mdx background, and achieved for the first time more than 70% efficiency of targeted human dystrophin exon skipping in vivo systemically. We also established a GFP-reporter myoblast culture to screen AOs targeting human dystrophin exon 50. Antisense efficiency for most AOs is consistent between the reporter cells, human myoblasts and in the hDMD/mdx mice in vivo. However, variation in efficiency was also clearly observed. A combination of in vitro cell culture and a Vivo-Morpholino based evaluation in vivo systemically in the hDMD/mdx mice therefore may represent a prudent approach for selecting AO drug and to meet the regulatory requirement.
PMCID: PMC3096650  PMID: 21611204
12.  Skeletal Muscle Fibrosis in the mdx/utrn+/- Mouse Validates Its Suitability as a Murine Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0117306.
Various therapeutic approaches have been studied for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), but none of these approaches have led to significant long-term effects in patients. One reason for this observed inefficacy may be the use of inappropriate animal models for the testing of therapeutic agents. The mdx mouse is the most widely used murine model of DMD, yet it does not model the fibrotic progression observed in patients. Other murine models of DMD are available that lack one or both alleles of utrophin, a functional analog of dystrophin. The aim of this study was to compare fibrosis and myofiber damage in the mdx, mdx/utrn+/- and double knockout (dko) mouse models. We used Masson’s trichrome stain and percentage of centrally-nucleated myofibers as indicators of fibrosis and myofiber regeneration, respectively, to assess disease progression in diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscles harvested from young and aged wild-type, mdx, mdx/utrn+/- and dko mice. Our results indicated that eight week-old gastrocnemius muscles of both mdx/utrn+/- and dko hind limb developed fibrosis whereas age-matched mdx gastrocnemius muscle did not (p = 0.002). The amount of collagen found in the mdx/utrn+/- diaphragm was significantly higher than that found in the corresponding diaphragm muscles of wild-type animals, but not of mdx animals (p = 0.0003). Aged mdx/utrn+/- mice developed fibrosis in both diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscles compared to wild-type controls (p = 0.003). Mdx diaphragm was fibrotic in aged mice as well (p = 0.0235), whereas the gastrocnemius muscle in these animals was not fibrotic. We did not measure a significant difference in collagen staining between wild-type and mdx gastrocnemius muscles. The results of this study support previous reports that the moderately-affected mdx/utrn+/- mouse is a better model of DMD, and we show here that this difference is apparent by 2 months of age.
PMCID: PMC4301874  PMID: 25607927
13.  Injection of Vessel-Derived Stem Cells Prevents Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Promotes Angiogenesis and Endogenous Cardiac Stem Cell Proliferation in mdx/utrn−/− but Not Aged mdx Mouse Models for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
It was hypothesized that mesoangioblast stem cells (aorta-derived mesoangioblasts [ADMs]) would restore dystrophin and alleviate or prevent dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in animal models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). It was found that ADMs delay or prevent development of DCM in dystrophin-deficient heart, resulting in dystrophin expression, angiogenesis, stimulation of endogenous cardiac stem cell division, and the appearance of nestin+ cardiomyocytes of host origin. It was also found that timing of stem cell transplantation may be critical for achieving benefit with cell therapy in DMD cardiac muscle.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common form of muscular dystrophy. DMD patients lack dystrophin protein and develop skeletal muscle pathology and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Approximately 20% succumb to cardiac involvement. We hypothesized that mesoangioblast stem cells (aorta-derived mesoangioblasts [ADMs]) would restore dystrophin and alleviate or prevent DCM in animal models of DMD. ADMs can be induced to express cardiac markers, including Nkx2.5, cardiac tropomyosin, cardiac troponin I, and α-actinin, and adopt cardiomyocyte morphology. Transplantation of ADMs into the heart of mdx/utrn−/− mice prior to development of DCM prevented onset of cardiomyopathy, as measured by echocardiography, and resulted in significantly higher CD31 expression, consistent with new vessel formation. Dystrophin-positive cardiomyocytes and increased proliferation of endogenous Nestin+ cardiac stem cells were detected in ADM-injected heart. Nestin+ striated cells were also detected in four of five mdx/utrn−/− hearts injected with ADMs. In contrast, when ADMs were injected into the heart of aged mdx mice with advanced fibrosis, no functional improvement was detected by echocardiography. Instead, ADMs exacerbated some features of DCM. No dystrophin protein, increase in CD31 expression, or increase in Nestin+ cell proliferation was detected following ADM injection in aged mdx heart. Dystrophin was observed following transplantation of ADMs into the hearts of young mdx mice, however, suggesting that pathology in aged mdx heart may alter the fate of donor stem cells. In summary, ADMs delay or prevent development of DCM in dystrophin-deficient heart, but timing of stem cell transplantation may be critical for achieving benefit with cell therapy in DMD cardiac muscle.
PMCID: PMC3659745  PMID: 23283493
Cellular therapy; Muscular dystrophy; Angiogenesis; Cardiac; Cellular proliferation; Neural stem cell; Cell transplantation
14.  Defects in mitochondrial localization and ATP synthesis in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy are not alleviated by PDE5 inhibition 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;22(1):153-167.
Given the crucial roles for mitochondria in ATP energy supply, Ca2+ handling and cell death, mitochondrial dysfunction has long been suspected to be an important pathogenic feature in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Despite this foresight, mitochondrial function in dystrophin-deficient muscles has remained poorly defined and unknown in vivo. Here, we used the mdx mouse model of DMD and non-invasive spectroscopy to determine the impact of dystrophin-deficiency on skeletal muscle mitochondrial localization and oxidative phosphorylation function in vivo. Mdx mitochondria exhibited significant uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation (reduced P/O) and a reduction in maximal ATP synthesis capacity that together decreased intramuscular ATP levels. Uncoupling was not driven by increased UCP3 or ANT1 expression. Dystrophin was required to maintain subsarcolemmal mitochondria (SSM) pool density, implicating it in the spatial control of mitochondrial localization. Given that nitric oxide-cGMP pathways regulate mitochondria and that sildenafil-mediated phosphodiesterase 5 inhibition ameliorates dystrophic pathology, we tested whether sildenafil's benefits result from decreased mitochondrial dysfunction in mdx mice. Unexpectedly, sildenafil treatment did not affect mitochondrial content or oxidative phosphorylation defects in mdx mice. Rather, PDE5 inhibition decreased resting levels of ATP, phosphocreatine and myoglobin, suggesting that sildenafil improves dystrophic pathology through other mechanisms. Overall, these data indicate that dystrophin-deficiency disrupts SSM localization, promotes mitochondrial inefficiency and restricts maximal mitochondrial ATP-generating capacity. Together these defects decrease intramuscular ATP and the ability of mdx muscle mitochondria to meet ATP demand. These findings further understanding of how mitochondrial bioenergetic dysfunction contributes to disease pathogenesis in dystrophin-deficient skeletal muscle in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3522404  PMID: 23049075
15.  Sub-physiological sarcoglycan expression contributes to compensatory muscle protection in mdx mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(7):1209-1220.
Sarcoglycans are a group of single-pass transmembrane glycoproteins. In striated muscle, sarcoglycans interact with dystrophin and other dystrophin-associated proteins (DAPs) to form the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex (DGC). The DGC protects the sarcolemma from contraction-induced injury. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by dystrophin gene mutations. In the absence of dystrophin, the DGC is disassembled from the sarcolemma. This initiates a chain reaction of muscle degeneration, necrosis, inflammation and fibrosis. In contrast to human patients, dystrophin-null mdx mice are only mildly affected. Enhanced muscle regeneration and the up-regulation of utrophin and integrin are thought to protect mdx muscle. Interestingly, trace amounts of sarcoglycans and other DAPs can be detected at the mdx sarcolemma. It is currently unclear whether sub-physiological sarcoglycan expression also contributes to the mild phenotype in mdx mice. To answer this question, we generated δ-sarcoglycan/dystrophin double knockout mice (δ-Dko) in which residual sarcoglycans were completely eliminated from the sarcolemma. Interestingly, utrophin levels were further increased in these mice. However, enhanced utrophin expression did not mitigate disease. The clinical manifestation of δ-Dko mice was worse than that of mdx mice. They showed characteristic dystrophic signs, body emaciation and more macrophage infiltration. Their lifespan was reduced by 60%. Furthermore, δ-Dko muscle generated significantly less absolute muscle force and became more susceptible to contraction-induced injury. Our results suggest that sub-physiological sarcoglycan expression plays a critical role in ameliorating muscle disease in mdx mice. We speculate that low-level sarcoglycan expression may represent a useful strategy to palliate DMD.
PMCID: PMC2655768  PMID: 19131360
16.  L-Type Ca2+ Channel Function Is Linked to Dystrophin Expression in Mammalian Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1762.
In dystrophic mdx skeletal muscle, aberrant Ca2+ homeostasis and fibre degeneration are found. The absence of dystrophin in models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has been connected to altered ion channel properties e.g. impaired L-type Ca2+ currents. In regenerating mdx muscle, ‘revertant’ fibres restore dystrophin expression. Their functionality involving DHPR-Ca2+-channels is elusive.
Methods and Results
We developed a novel ‘in-situ’ confocal immuno-fluorescence and imaging technique that allows, for the first time, quantitative subcellular dystrophin-DHPR colocalization in individual, non-fixed, muscle fibres. Tubular DHPR signals alternated with second harmonic generation signals originating from myosin. Dystrophin-DHPR colocalization was substantial in wt fibres, but diminished in most mdx fibres. Mini-dystrophin (MinD) expressing fibres successfully restored colocalization. Interestingly, in some aged mdx fibres, colocalization was similar to wt fibres. Most mdx fibres showed very weak membrane dystrophin staining and were classified ‘mdx-like’. Some mdx fibres, however, had strong ‘wt-like’ dystrophin signals and were identified as ‘revertants’. Split mdx fibres were mostly ‘mdx-like’ and are not generally ‘revertants’. Correlations between membrane dystrophin and DHPR colocalization suggest a restored putative link in ‘revertants’. Using the two-micro-electrode-voltage clamp technique, Ca2+-current amplitudes (imax) showed very similar behaviours: reduced amplitudes in most aged mdx fibres (as seen exclusively in young mdx mice) and a few mdx fibres, most likely ‘revertants’, with amplitudes similar to wt or MinD fibres. Ca2+ current activation curves were similar in ‘wt-like’ and ‘mdx-like’ aged mdx fibres and are not the cause for the differences in current amplitudes. imax amplitudes were fully restored in MinD fibres.
We present evidence for a direct/indirect DHPR-dystrophin interaction present in wt, MinD and ‘revertant’ mdx fibres but absent in remaining mdx fibres. Our imaging technique reliably detects single isolated ‘revertant’ fibres that could be used for subsequent physiological experiments to study mechanisms and therapy concepts in DMD.
PMCID: PMC2408559  PMID: 18516256
17.  Prednisolone Treatment Does Not Interfere with 2′-O-Methyl Phosphorothioate Antisense-Mediated Exon Skipping in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;23(3):262-273.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), dystrophin deficiency leading to progressive muscular degeneration is caused by frame-shifting mutations in the DMD gene. Antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) aim to restore the reading frame by skipping of a specific exon(s), thereby allowing the production of a shorter, but semifunctional protein, as is found in the mostly more mildly affected patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. AONs are currently being investigated in phase 3 placebo-controlled clinical trials. Most of the participating patients are treated symptomatically with corticosteroids (mainly predniso[lo]ne) to stabilize the muscle fibers, which might affect the uptake and/or efficiency of AONs. Therefore the effect of prednisolone on 2′-O-methyl phosphorothioate AON efficacy in patient-derived cultured muscle cells and the mdx mouse model (after local and systemic AON treatment) was assessed in this study. Both in vitro and in vivo skip efficiency and biomarker expression were comparable between saline- and prednisolone-cotreated cells and mice. After systemic exon 23-specific AON (23AON) treatment for 8 weeks, dystrophin was detectable in all treated mice. Western blot analyses indicated slightly higher dystrophin levels in prednisolone-treated mice, which might be explained by better muscle condition and consequently more target dystrophin pre-mRNA. In addition, fibrotic and regeneration biomarkers were normalized to some extent in prednisolone- and/or 23AON-treated mice. Overall these results show that the use of prednisone forms no barrier to participation in clinical trials with AONs.
Verhaart and colleagues examine the effects of prednisolone, a corticosteroid, on the function of antisense oligonucleotide (AON) therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They show that prednisolone treatment does not interfere with AON uptake and exon-skipping levels in patient-derived muscle cells in vitro and in mdx mice in vivo. In fact, they suggest that prednisolone might even enhance the dystrophin expression induced by exon 23-specific AONs in mdx mice.
PMCID: PMC3300076  PMID: 22017442
18.  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.
PMCID: PMC4055409  PMID: 24922526
19.  Haploinsufficiency of Utrophin Gene Worsens Skeletal Muscle Inflammation and Fibrosis in mdx Mice 
Journal of the neurological sciences  2007;264(1-2):106-111.
To address whether mdx mice with haploinsufficiency of utrophin (mdx/utrn+/-) develop more severe skeletal muscle inflammation and fibrosis than mdx mice, to represent a better model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), we performed qualitative and quantitative analysis of skeletal muscle inflammation and fibrosis in mdx and mdx/utrn+/- littermates. Inflammation was significantly worse in mdx/utrn+/- quadriceps at age 3 and 6 months and in mdx/utrn+/- diaphragm at age 3 but not 6 months. Fibrosis was more severe in mdx/utrn+/- diaphragm at 6 months, and at this age, mild fibrosis was noted in quadriceps of mdx/utrn+/- but not mdx mice. The findings indicate that utrophin compensates, although insufficiently, for the effects of dystrophin loss with regard to inflammation and fibrosis of both quadriceps and diaphragm muscles in mdx mice. With more severe muscle dystrophy than mdx mice and a longer life span than utrophin-dystrophin-deficient (dko) mice, mdx/utrn+/- mice provide a better mouse model for testing potential therapies for muscle inflammation and fibrosis associated with DMD.
PMCID: PMC2696235  PMID: 17889902
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; mouse model; mdx; mdx/utrn+/-; inflammation; fibrosis
20.  Matrix metalloproteinase-9 inhibition ameliorates pathogenesis and improves skeletal muscle regeneration in muscular dystrophy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(14):2584-2598.
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.
PMCID: PMC2701330  PMID: 19401296
21.  Major basic protein-1 promotes fibrosis of dystrophic muscle and attenuates the cellular immune response in muscular dystrophy 
Human molecular genetics  2008;17(15):2280-2292.
The immune response to dystrophin-deficient muscle promotes the pathology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and the mdx mouse model of DMD. In this investigation, we find that the release of major basic protein (MBP) by eosinophils is a prominent feature of DMD and mdx dystrophy and that eosinophils lyse muscle cells in vitro by the release of MBP-1. We also show that eosinophil depletions of mdx mice by injections of anti-chemokine receptor-3 reduce muscle cell lysis, although lysis of mdx muscle membranes is not reduced by null mutation of MBP-1 in vivo. However, ablation of MBP-1 expression in mdx mice produces other effects on muscular dystrophy. First, fibrosis of muscle and hearts, a major cause of mortality in DMD, is greatly reduced by null mutation of MBP-1 in mdx mice. Furthermore, either ablation of MBP-1 or eosinophil depletion causes large increases in cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) in mdx muscles. The increase in CTLs in MBP-1-null mice does not reflect a general shift toward a Th1 inflammatory response, because the mutation had no significant effect on the expression of interferon-gamma, inducible nitric oxide synthase or tumor necrosis factor. Rather, MBP-1 reduces the activation and proliferation of splenocytes in vitro, indicating that MBP-1 acts in a more specific immunomodulatory role to affect the inflammatory response in muscular dystrophy. Together, these findings show that eosinophil-derived MBP-1 plays a significant role in regulating muscular dystrophy by attenuating the cellular immune response and promoting tissue fibrosis that can eventually contribute to increased mortality.
PMCID: PMC2574717  PMID: 18430716
22.  Major basic protein-1 promotes fibrosis of dystrophic muscle and attenuates the cellular immune response in muscular dystrophy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(15):2280-2292.
The immune response to dystrophin-deficient muscle promotes the pathology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and the mdx mouse model of DMD. In this investigation, we find that the release of major basic protein (MBP) by eosinophils is a prominent feature of DMD and mdx dystrophy and that eosinophils lyse muscle cells in vitro by the release of MBP-1. We also show that eosinophil depletions of mdx mice by injections of anti-chemokine receptor-3 reduce muscle cell lysis, although lysis of mdx muscle membranes is not reduced by null mutation of MBP-1 in vivo. However, ablation of MBP-1 expression in mdx mice produces other effects on muscular dystrophy. First, fibrosis of muscle and hearts, a major cause of mortality in DMD, is greatly reduced by null mutation of MBP-1 in mdx mice. Furthermore, either ablation of MBP-1 or eosinophil depletion causes large increases in cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) in mdx muscles. The increase in CTLs in MBP-1-null mice does not reflect a general shift toward a Th1 inflammatory response, because the mutation had no significant effect on the expression of interferon-gamma, inducible nitric oxide synthase or tumor necrosis factor. Rather, MBP-1 reduces the activation and proliferation of splenocytes in vitro, indicating that MBP-1 acts in a more specific immunomodulatory role to affect the inflammatory response in muscular dystrophy. Together, these findings show that eosinophil-derived MBP-1 plays a significant role in regulating muscular dystrophy by attenuating the cellular immune response and promoting tissue fibrosis that can eventually contribute to increased mortality.
PMCID: PMC2574717  PMID: 18430716
23.  Andrographolide attenuates skeletal muscle dystrophy in mdx mice and increases efficiency of cell therapy by reducing fibrosis 
Skeletal Muscle  2014;4:6.
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.
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.
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.
These results suggest that andrographolide could be used to improve quality of life in individuals with DMD.
PMCID: PMC4021597  PMID: 24655808
Andrographolide; mdx; DMD; Fibrosis; Skeletal muscle; Cell therapy
24.  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.
PMCID: PMC3674804  PMID: 23459935
25.  Microdystrophin Gene Therapy of Cardiomyopathy Restores Dystrophin-Glycoprotein Complex and Improves Sarcolemma Integrity in the Mdx Mouse Heart 
Circulation  2003;108(13):1626-1632.
More than 90% of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients develop cardiomyopathy, and many die of cardiac failure. Despite tremendous progress in skeletal muscle gene therapy, few attempts have been made to treat cardiomyopathy. Microdystrophin genes are shown to correct skeletal muscle pathological lesions in the mdx mouse model for DMD. Here, we tested the therapeutic potential of adeno-associated virus (AAV)–mediated microdystrophin gene therapy in the mdx mouse heart.
Methods and Results
AAV was delivered to the newborn mdx mouse cardiac cavity. The procedure was rapid and well tolerated. Efficient expression was achieved in the inner and the outer layers of the myocardium. The ubiquitous cytomegalovirus promoter resulted in substantially higher expression than the muscle-specific CK6 promoter. The therapeutic effects of microdystrophin were evaluated at 10 months after infection. Immunostaining demonstrated extensive microdystrophin expression and successful restoration of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex. Importantly, AAV-mediated microdystrophin expression improved the sarcolemma integrity in the mdx heart.
We established a simple gene transfer method for efficient and persistent transduction of the mdx mouse heart. AAV-mediated microdystrophin expression restored the critical dystrophin-glycoprotein complex and improved sarcolemma integrity of the mdx heart. Our results revealed the promise of AAV-microdystrophin gene therapy for cardiomyopathy in DMD.
PMCID: PMC2581719  PMID: 12952841
muscular dystrophy; genes; viruses; gene therapy; microdystrophin

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