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1.  Processive steps in the reverse direction require uncoupling of the lead head lever arm of myosin VI 
Molecular cell  2012;48(1):75-86.
Myosin VI is the only known reverse-direction myosin motor. It has an unprecedented means of amplifying movements within the motor involving rearrangements of the converter subdomain at the C-terminus of the motor and an unusual lever arm projecting from the converter. While the average step size of a myosin VI dimer is 30–36nm, the step size is highly variable, presenting a challenge to the lever arm mechanism by which all myosins are thought to move. Herein we present new structures of myosin VI that reveal regions of compliance that allow an uncoupling of the lead head when movement is modeled on actin. The location of the compliance restricts the possible actin binding sites and predicts the observed stepping behavior. The model reveals that myosin VI, unlike plus-end directed myosins, does not use a pure lever arm mechanism, but instead steps with a mechanism analogous to the kinesin neck-linker uncoupling model.
PMCID: PMC3472048  PMID: 22940248
2.  Gene transfer of arginine kinase to skeletal muscle using adeno-associated virus 
Gene therapy  2014;21(4):387-392.
In this study we tested the feasibility of non-invasively measuring phosphoarginine (PArg) after gene delivery of arginine kinase (AK) using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) to murine hindlimbs. This was achieved by evaluating the time course, regional distribution, and metabolic flux of PArg using 31 phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P-MRS). AK gene was injected into the gastrocnemius of the left hindlimb of C57Bl10 mice (age 5wk, male) using self-complementary AAV, type 2/8 with desmin promoter. Non-localized 31P-MRS data were acquired over nine months after injection using 11.1-T and 17.6-T Bruker Avance spectrometers. In addition, 31P 2-D chemical shift imaging and saturation transfer experiments were performed to examine the spatial distribution and metabolic flux of PArg, respectively. PArg was evident in each injected mouse hindlimb after gene delivery, increased until 28 weeks, and remained elevated for at least nine months (p<.05). Furthermore, PArg was primarily localized to the injected posterior hindimb region with the metabolite being in exchange with ATP. Overall, the results show the viability of AAV gene transfer of AK gene to skeletal muscle, and provide support of PArg as a reporter that can be utilized to non-invasively monitor the transduction of genes for therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3975678  PMID: 24572791
31Phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P-MRS); gene reporter; arginine kinase; phosphoarginine; creatine kinase; phosphocreatine; skeletal muscle
3.  Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Assessment of Lower Extremity Skeletal Muscles in Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: A Multicenter Cross Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106435.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disorder that results in functional deficits. However, these functional declines are often not able to be quantified in clinical trials for DMD until after age 7. In this study, we hypothesized that 1H2O T2 derived using 1H-MRS and MRI-T2 will be sensitive to muscle involvement at a young age (5–7 years) consistent with increased inflammation and muscle damage in a large cohort of DMD subjects compared to controls.
MR data were acquired from 123 boys with DMD (ages 5–14 years; mean 8.6 SD 2.2 years) and 31 healthy controls (age 9.7 SD 2.3 years) using 3-Tesla MRI instruments at three institutions (University of Florida, Oregon Health & Science University, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). T2-weighted multi-slice spin echo (SE) axial images and single voxel 1H-MRS were acquired from the lower leg and thigh to measure lipid fraction and 1H2O T2.
MRI-T2, 1H2O T2, and lipid fraction were greater (p<0.05) in DMD compared to controls. In the youngest age group, DMD values were different (p<0.05) than controls for the soleus MRI-T2, 1H2O T2 and lipid fraction and vastus lateralis MRI-T2 and 1H2O T2. In the boys with DMD, MRI-T2 and lipid fraction were greater (p<0.05) in the oldest age group (11–14 years) than the youngest age group (5–6.9 years), while 1H2O T2 was lower in the oldest age group compared to the young age group.
Overall, MR measures of T2 and lipid fraction revealed differences between DMD and Controls. Furthermore, MRI-T2 was greater in the older age group compared to the young age group, which was associated with higher lipid fractions. Overall, MR measures of T2 and lipid fraction show excellent sensitivity to DMD disease pathologies and potential therapeutic interventions in DMD, even in the younger boys.
PMCID: PMC4159278  PMID: 25203313
4.  Enhancing the Utility of Adeno-Associated Virus Gene Transfer through Inducible Tissue-Specific Expression 
Human Gene Therapy Methods  2013;24(4):270-278.
The ability to regulate both the timing and specificity of gene expression mediated by viral vectors will be important in maximizing its utility. We describe the development of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based vector with tissue-specific gene regulation, using the ARGENT dimerizer-inducible system. This two-vector system based on AAV serotype 9 consists of one vector encoding a combination of reporter genes from which expression is directed by a ubiquitous, inducible promoter and a second vector encoding transcription factor domains under the control of either a heart- or liver-specific promoter, which are activated with a small molecule. Administration of the vectors via either systemic or intrapericardial injection demonstrated that the vector system is capable of mediating gene expression that is tissue specific, regulatable, and reproducible over induction cycles. Somatic gene transfer in vivo is being considered in therapeutic applications, although its most substantial value will be in basic applications such as target validation and development of animal models.
Chen and colleagues describe the development of an AAV-based vector with tissue-specific gene regulation, using the ARGENT dimerizer-inducible system. They demonstrate that administration of these vectors via either systemic or intrapericardial injection leads to gene expression that is tissue specific, regulatable, and reproducible over induction cycles.
PMCID: PMC3753727  PMID: 23895325
5.  Myosin VI dimerization triggers an unfolding of a 3-helix bundle in order to extend its reach 
Molecular cell  2009;35(3):305-315.
Myosin VI challenges the prevailing theory of how myosin motors move on actin: the lever arm hypothesis. While the reverse directionality and large powerstroke of myosin VI can be attributed to unusual properties of a subdomain of the motor (converter with a unique insert), these adaptations cannot account for the large step size on actin. Either the lever arm hypothesis needs modification, or myosin VI has some unique form of extension of its lever arm. We determined the structure of the region immediately distal to the lever arm of the motor and show that it is a 3-helix bundle. Based on C-terminal truncations that display the normal range of step sizes on actin, CD, fluorescence studies, and a partial deletion of the bundle, we demonstrate that this bundle unfolds upon dimerization of two myosin VI monomers. This unprecedented mechanism generates an extension of the lever arm of myosin VI.
PMCID: PMC2756668  PMID: 19664948
unconventional myosin; motility; converter; lever arm; single stable α-helix
6.  T2 mapping provides multiple approaches to characterize muscle involvement in neuromuscular diseases: a cross-sectional study of lower leg muscles in 5–15 year old boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
NMR in biomedicine  2012;26(3):320-328.
Skeletal muscles of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have enhanced susceptibility to damage and progressive lipid infiltration, which contribute to an increase in magnetic resonance proton transverse relaxation time (T2). Therefore, examining T2 changes in individual muscles may be useful for monitoring disease progression in DMD. In this study we utilized mean T2, percent elevated pixels, and T2 heterogeneity to assess changes in composition of dystrophic muscles. In addition, we used fat saturation (fatsat) to distinguish T2 changes due to edema and inflammation from fat infiltration in muscles.
Thirty subjects with DMD and 15 age-matched controls underwent T2-weighted imaging of their lower leg using 3-T MR system. T2 maps were developed and four lower leg muscles were manually traced (soleus, medial gastrocnemius, peroneal and tibialis anterior). Mean T2 of the traced regions of interest (ROI), width of T2 histograms, and percent-elevated pixels were calculated.
We found that even in young children with DMD, muscles had elevated mean T2, were more heterogeneous, and had a greater percent-elevated pixels in the lower leg muscles than controls. T2 measures decreased with fat saturation, but were still higher (p<0.05) in dystrophic muscles than controls. Further, T2 measures showed positive correlations with timed functional tests (r=0.23–0.79).
The elevated T2 measures with and without fat saturation in all ages of DMD examined (5–15 years) compared to unaffected controls indicate that the dystrophic muscles have increased regions of damage, edema, and fat infiltration. This study shows that T2 mapping provides multiple approaches that can be effectively utilized to characterize muscle tissue in children with DMD even in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, T2 mapping may prove clinically useful in monitoring muscle changes due to disease process or therapeutic interventions in DMD.
PMCID: PMC3573223  PMID: 23044995
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; skeletal muscle; MRI; proton transverse relaxation time; T2 mapping; heterogeneity; biomarker
7.  Rare, Non-Synonymous Variant in the Smooth Muscle-Specific Isoform of Myosin Heavy Chain, MYH11, R247C, Alters Force Generation in the Aorta and Phenotype of Smooth Muscle Cells 
Circulation research  2012;110(11):1411-1422.
Mutations in MYH11 cause autosomal dominant inheritance of thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections. At the same time, rare, non-synonymous variants in MYH11 that are predicted to disrupt protein function but do not cause inherited aortic disease are common in the general population and the vascular disease risk associated with these variants is unknown.
To determine the consequences of the recurrent MYH11 rare variant, R247C, through functional studies in vitro and analysis of a knock-in mouse model with this specific variant, including assessment of aortic contraction, response to vascular injury, and phenotype of primary aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs).
Methods and Results
The steady state ATPase activity (actin-activated) and the rates of phosphate and ADP release were lower for the R247C mutant myosin than for the wild-type, as was the rate of actin filament sliding in an in vitro motility assay. Myh11R247C/R247C mice exhibited normal growth, reproduction, and aortic histology but decreased aortic contraction. In response to vascular injury, Myh11R247C/R247C mice showed significantly increased neointimal formation due to increased SMC proliferation when compared with the wild-type mice. Primary aortic SMCs explanted from the Myh11R247C/R247C mice were de-differentiated compared with wild-type SMCs based on increased proliferation and reduced expression of SMC contractile proteins. The mutant SMCs also displayed altered focal adhesions and decreased Rho activation, associated with decreased nuclear localization of myocardin-related transcription factor-A. Exposure of the Myh11R247C/R247C SMCs to a Rho activator rescued the de-differentiated phenotype of the SMCs.
These results indicate that a rare variant in MYH11, R247C, alters myosin contractile function and SMC phenotype, leading to increased proliferation in vitro and in response to vascular injury.
PMCID: PMC3917690  PMID: 22511748
MYH11; smooth muscle myosin heavy chain; thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections; smooth muscle differentiation; mouse model
8.  Gene Transfer in Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle Using Recombinant Adeno-Associated Virus 
Current protocols in microbiology  2013;0 14:Unit-14D.3.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a DNA virus with a small (~4.7kb) single-stranded genome. It is a naturally replication-defective parvovirus of the dependovirus group. Recombinant AAV (rAAV), for use as a gene transfer vector, is created by replacing the viral rep and cap genes with the transgene of interest along with promoter and polyadenylation sequences. Only the viral inverted terminal repeats (ITRs) are required in cis for replication and packaging during production. The ITRs are also necessary and sufficient for vector genome processing and persistence during transduction. The tissue tropism of the rAAV vector is determined by the AAV capsid. In this unit we will discuss several methods to deliver rAAV in order to transduce cardiac and/or skeletal muscle, including: intravenous delivery, intramuscular delivery, isolated limb infusion, intrapericardial injection in neonatal mice, and left ventricular wall injection in adult rats.
PMCID: PMC3641885  PMID: 23408131
Adeno-associated virus; gene therapy; heart; skeletal muscle; vector delivery
9.  The structure of the myosin VI motor reveals the mechanism of directionality reversal 
Nature  2005;435(7043):779-785.
We have solved a 2.4Å structure of a truncated version of the reverse direction myosin motor, myosin VI, that contains the motor domain and binding sites for two calmodulins. The structure reveals only minor differences in the motor domain as compared to plus-end directed myosins, with the exception of two unique inserts. The first insert is near the nucleotide-binding pocket, and alters the rates of nucleotide association and dissociation. The second unique insert forms an integral part of the myosin VI converter domain along with a calmodulin bound to a previously unseen binding motif within the insert. This serves to redirect the effective “lever arm” of myosin VI, which includes a second calmodulin bound to an “IQ motif,” towards the pointed (−) end of the actin filament. This repositioning largely accounts for the reverse directionality of this class of myosin motors. We propose a model incorporating a kinesin-like uncoupling/docking mechanism to fully explain the movements of myosin VI.
PMCID: PMC2762700  PMID: 15944696
10.  Myosin VI has a one track mind versus myosin Va when moving on actin bundles or at an intersection 
Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark)  2012;14(1):70-81.
Myosin VI (myoVI) and myosin Va (myoVa) serve roles both as intracellular cargo transporters and tethers/anchors. In both capacities, these motors bind to and processively travel along the actin cytoskeleton, a network of intersecting actin filaments and bundles that present directional challenges to these motors. Are myoVI and myoVa inherently different in their abilities to interact and maneuver through the complexities of the actin cytoskeleton? Thus, we created an in vitro model system of intersecting actin filaments and individual unipolar (fascin-actin) or mixed polarity (α-actinin-actin) bundles. The stepping dynamics of individual Qdot-labeled myoVI and myoVa motors were determined on these actin tracks. Interestingly, myoVI prefers to stay on the actin filament it is traveling on, while myoVa switches filaments with higher probability at an intersection or between filaments in a bundle. The structural basis for this maneuverability difference was assessed by expressing a myoVI chimera in which the single myoVI IQ was replaced with the longer, 6 IQ myoVa lever. The mutant behaved more like myoVI at actin intersections and on bundles, suggesting that a structural element other than the lever arm dictates myoVI’fs preference to stay on track, which may be critical to its role as an intracellular anchor.
PMCID: PMC3548028  PMID: 23046080
molecular motors; processivity; anchor; tether; cargo transporter; cytoskeleton; single molecule; Qdot
11.  Phase 2a Study of Ataluren-Mediated Dystrophin Production in Patients with Nonsense Mutation Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81302.
Approximately 13% of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have a nonsense mutation in the dystrophin gene, resulting in a premature stop codon in the corresponding mRNA and failure to generate a functional protein. Ataluren (PTC124) enables ribosomal readthrough of premature stop codons, leading to production of full-length, functional proteins.
This Phase 2a open-label, sequential dose-ranging trial recruited 38 boys with nonsense mutation DMD. The first cohort (n = 6) received ataluren three times per day at morning, midday, and evening doses of 4, 4, and 8 mg/kg; the second cohort (n = 20) was dosed at 10, 10, 20 mg/kg; and the third cohort (n = 12) was dosed at 20, 20, 40 mg/kg. Treatment duration was 28 days. Change in full-length dystrophin expression, as assessed by immunostaining in pre- and post-treatment muscle biopsy specimens, was the primary endpoint.
Twenty three of 38 (61%) subjects demonstrated increases in post-treatment dystrophin expression in a quantitative analysis assessing the ratio of dystrophin/spectrin. A qualitative analysis also showed positive changes in dystrophin expression. Expression was not associated with nonsense mutation type or exon location. Ataluren trough plasma concentrations active in the mdx mouse model were consistently achieved at the mid- and high- dose levels in participants. Ataluren was generally well tolerated.
Ataluren showed activity and safety in this short-term study, supporting evaluation of ataluren 10, 10, 20 mg/kg and 20, 20, 40 mg/kg in a Phase 2b, double-blind, long-term study in nonsense mutation DMD.
Trial Registration NCT00264888
PMCID: PMC3859499  PMID: 24349052
12.  How myosin motors power cellular functions : an exciting journey from structure to function 
The Febs Journal  2012;279(4):551-562.
Molecular motors such as myosins are allosteric enzymes that power essential motility functions in the cell and structural biology is an important tool to decipher how these motors work. Force is produced by myosins upon the actin-driven conformational changes that control the sequential release of the hydrolysis products of ATP (Pi followed by ADP). These conformational changes are amplified by a “lever arm” that includes the region of the motor known as the converter and the adjacent elongated light chain binding region. Analysis of four structural states of the motor provides a detailed understanding of the rearrangements and pathways of communication in the motor necessary for detachment from the actin track and repriming of the motor. However, the important part of the cycle in which force is produced remains enigmatic and awaits new high resolution structures. The value of a structural approach is particularly evident from the clues that have been provided from the structural states of the reverse myosin VI motor. Crystallographic structures have revealed that rearrangements within the converter subdomain occur which explains why this myosin can produce a large stroke in the opposite direction of all other myosins despite a very short lever arm. By providing detailed understanding of the motor rearrangements, structural biology will continue to reveal essential information to solve current enigma such as how actin promotes force production, how motors are tuned for specific cellular roles, or how motor/cargo interactions regulate myosin function in the cell.
PMCID: PMC3269445  PMID: 22171985
13.  Muscle-specific expression of insulin-like growth factor I counters muscle decline in mdx mice 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2002;157(1):137-148.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an X-linked degenerative disorder of muscle caused by the absence of the protein dystrophin. A major consequence of muscular dystrophy is that the normal regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle cannot compensate for increased susceptibility to damage, leading to repetitive cycles of degeneration–regeneration and ultimately resulting in the replacement of muscle fibers with fibrotic tissue. Because insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) has been shown to enhance muscle regeneration and protein synthetic pathways, we asked whether high levels of muscle-specific expression of IGF-I in mdx muscle could preserve muscle function in the diseased state. In transgenic mdx mice expressing mIgf-I (mdx:mIgf+/+), we showed that muscle mass increased by at least 40% leading to similar increases in force generation in extensor digitorum longus muscles compared with those from mdx mice. Diaphragms of transgenic mdx:mIgf+/+ exhibited significant hypertrophy and hyperplasia at all ages observed. Furthermore, the IGF-I expression significantly reduced the amount of fibrosis normally observed in diaphragms from aged mdx mice. Decreased myonecrosis was also observed in diaphragms and quadriceps from mdx:mIgf+/+ mice when compared with age-matched mdx animals. Finally, signaling pathways associated with muscle regeneration and protection against apoptosis were significantly elevated. These results suggest that a combination of promoting muscle regenerative capacity and preventing muscle necrosis could be an effective treatment for the secondary symptoms caused by the primary loss of dystrophin.
PMCID: PMC2173262  PMID: 11927606
IGF-I; muscular dystrophy; satellite cells; regeneration; protein kinase B
14.  Relationships of thigh muscle contractile and non-contractile tissue with function, strength, and age in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2011;22(1):16-25.
The purpose of this study was to assess the contractile and non-contractile content in thigh muscles of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and determine the relationship with functional abilities. Magnetic resonance images of the thigh were acquired in 28 boys with DMD and 10 unaffected boys. Muscle strength, timed functional tests, and the Brookes Lower Extremity scale were also assessed. Non-contractile content in the DMD group was significantly greater than in the control group for six muscles, including rectus femoris, biceps femoris-long head and adductor magnus. Non-contractile content in the total thigh musculature assessed by MRI correlated with the Brookes scale (rs=0.75) and supine-up test (rs=0.68), as well as other functional measures. An age-related specific torque increase was observed in the control group (rs=0.96), but not the DMD (rs=0.06). These findings demonstrate that MRI measures of contractile and non-contractile content can provide important information about disease progression in DMD.
PMCID: PMC3215817  PMID: 21807516
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; muscle strength; magnetic resonance imaging
15.  Long-Term Systemic Myostatin Inhibition via Liver-Targeted Gene Transfer in Golden Retriever Muscular Dystrophy 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(12):1499-1509.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal, X-linked recessive disease affecting 1 in 3,500 newborn boys for which there is no effective treatment or cure. One novel strategy that has therapeutic potential for DMD is inhibition of myostatin, a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass that may also promote fibrosis. Therefore, our goal in this study was to evaluate systemic myostatin inhibition in the golden retriever model of DMD (GRMD). GRMD canines underwent liver-directed gene transfer of a self-complementary adeno-associated virus type 8 vector designed to express a secreted dominant-negative myostatin peptide (n=4) and were compared with age-matched, untreated GRMD controls (n=3). Dogs were followed with serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for 13 months to assess cross-sectional area and volume of skeletal muscle, then euthanized so that tissue could be harvested for morphological and histological analysis. We found that systemic myostatin inhibition resulted in increased muscle mass in GRMD dogs as assessed by MRI and confirmed at tissue harvest. We also found that hypertrophy of type IIA fibers was largely responsible for the increased muscle mass and that reductions in serum creatine kinase and muscle fibrosis were associated with long-term myostatin inhibition in GRMD. This is the first report describing the effects of long-term, systemic myostatin inhibition in a large-animal model of DMD, and we believe that the simple and effective nature of our liver-directed gene-transfer strategy makes it an ideal candidate for evaluation as a novel therapeutic approach for DMD patients.
Bish and colleagues evaluate the therapeutic potential of systemic myostatin inhibition in the golden retriever model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Canines underwent liver-directed gene transfer of a self-complementary adeno-associated virus type 8 vector expressing a secreted dominant-negative myostatin peptide. Myostatin inhibition resulted in increased muscle mass, largely due to hypertrophy of type IIA fibers, as well as in reduced fibrosis and serum creatine kinase.
PMCID: PMC3237695  PMID: 21787232
16.  Aminoglycoside antibiotics restore dystrophin function to skeletal muscles of mdx mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(4):375-381.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, leading to the absence of the dystrophin protein in striated muscle. A significant number of these mutations are premature stop codons. On the basis of the observation that aminoglycoside treatment can suppress stop codons in cultured cells, we tested the effect of gentamicin on cultured muscle cells from the mdx mouse — an animal model for DMD that possesses a premature stop codon in the dystrophin gene. Exposure of mdx myotubes to gentamicin led to the expression and localization of dystrophin to the cell membrane. We then evaluated the effects of differing dosages of gentamicin on expression and functional protection of the muscles of mdx mice. We identified a treatment regimen that resulted in the presence of dystrophin in the cell membrane in all striated muscles examined and that provided functional protection against muscular injury. To our knowledge, our results are the first to demonstrate that aminoglycosides can suppress stop codons not only in vitro but also in vivo. Furthermore, these results raise the possibility of a novel treatment regimen for muscular dystrophy and other diseases caused by premature stop codon mutations. This treatment could prove effective in up to 15% of patients with DMD.
J. Clin. Invest. 104:375–381 (1999).
PMCID: PMC481050  PMID: 10449429
17.  Cardiac Gene Transfer of Short Hairpin RNA Directed Against Phospholamban Effectively Knocks Down Gene Expression but Causes Cellular Toxicity in Canines 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(8):969-977.
Derangements in calcium cycling have been described in failing hearts, and preclinical studies have suggested that therapies aimed at correcting this defect can lead to improvements in cardiac function and survival. One strategy to improve calcium cycling would be to inhibit phospholamban (PLB), the negative regulator of SERCA2a that is upregulated in failing hearts. The goal of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of using adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated cardiac gene transfer of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to knock down expression of PLB. Six dogs were treated with self-complementary AAV serotype 6 (scAAV6) expressing shRNA against PLB. Three control dogs were treated with empty AAV6 capsid, and two control dogs were treated with scAAV6 expressing dominant negative PLB. Vector was delivered via a percutaneously inserted cardiac injection catheter. PLB mRNA and protein expression were analyzed in three of six shRNA dogs between days 16 and 26. The other three shRNA dogs and five control dogs were monitored long-term to assess cardiac safety. PLB mRNA was reduced 16-fold, and PLB protein was reduced 5-fold, with treatment. Serum troponin elevation and depressed cardiac function were observed in the shRNA group only at 4 weeks. An enzyme-linked immunospot assay failed to detect any T cells reactive to AAV6 capsid in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, heart, or spleen. Microarray analysis revealed alterations in cardiac expression of several microRNAs with shRNA treatment. AAV6-mediated cardiac gene transfer of shRNA effectively knocks down PLB expression but is associated with severe cardiac toxicity. Toxicity may result from dysregulation of endogenous microRNA pathways.
In this preclinical study, Bish and colleagues report that adeno-associated virus serotype 6 (AAV6)-mediated expression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) directed against phospholamban (PLB), a regulator of heart failure (HF), is effective at knocking down PLB expression. Yet, safety assessments revealed that healthy canines treated with shRNA, but not empty AAV6 capsid, experienced serum cardiac troponin I elevation, cardiac dysfunction, and alteration of cardiac microRNA expression, suggesting that this approach may not be a feasible therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC3159526  PMID: 21542669
18.  The azimuthal path of myosin V and its dependence on lever-arm length 
The Journal of General Physiology  2012;139(2):101-120.
Myosin V (myoV) is a two-headed myosin capable of taking many successive steps along actin per diffusional encounter, enabling it to transport vesicular and ribonucleoprotein cargos in the dense and complex environment within cells. To better understand how myoV navigates along actin, we used polarized total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to examine angular changes of bifunctional rhodamine probes on the lever arms of single myoV molecules in vitro. With a newly developed analysis technique, the rotational motions of the lever arm and the local orientation of each probe relative to the lever arm were estimated from the probe’s measured orientation. This type of analysis could be applied to similar studies on other motor proteins, as well as other proteins with domains that undergo significant rotational motions. The experiments were performed on recombinant constructs of myoV that had either the native-length (six IQ motifs and calmodulins [CaMs]) or truncated (four IQ motifs and CaMs) lever arms. Native-length myoV-6IQ mainly took straight steps along actin, with occasional small azimuthal tilts around the actin filament. Truncated myoV-4IQ showed an increased frequency of azimuthal steps, but the magnitudes of these steps were nearly identical to those of myoV-6IQ. The results show that the azimuthal deflections of myoV on actin are more common for the truncated lever arm, but the range of these deflections is relatively independent of its lever-arm length.
PMCID: PMC3269788  PMID: 22291144
19.  Two single-headed myosin V motors bound to a tetrameric adapter protein form a processive complex 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(4):631-641.
The yeast class V myosin Myo4p moves processively in vivo in a cargo-dependent manner following formation of a double-headed complex with the adapter protein She3p and the mRNA-binding protein She2p.
Myo4p, one of two class V myosins in budding yeast, continuously transports messenger RNA (mRNA) cargo in the cell but is nonprocessive when characterized in vitro. The adapter protein She3p tightly binds to the Myo4p rod, forming a single-headed motor complex. In this paper, we show that two Myo4p–She3p motors are recruited by the tetrameric mRNA-binding protein She2p to form a processive double-headed complex. The binding site for She3p was mapped to a single α helix that protrudes at right angles from She2p. Processive runs of several micrometers on yeast actin–tropomyosin filaments were observed only in the presence of She2p, and, thus, motor activity is regulated by cargo binding. While moving processively, each head steps ∼72 nm in a hand-over-hand motion. Coupling two high-duty cycle monomeric motors via a common cargo-binding adapter protein creates a complex with transport properties comparable with a single dimeric processive motor such as vertebrate myosin Va.
PMCID: PMC3257522  PMID: 22084309
20.  Up-regulation of Paxillin and Focal Adhesion Signaling follows Dystroglycan Complex deletions and promotes a Hypertensive State of Differentiation 
European journal of cell biology  2011;90(2-3):249-260.
Anchorage to matrix is mediated for many cells not only by integrin-based focal adhesions but also by a parallel assembly of integral and peripheral membrane proteins known as the Dystroglycan Complex. Deficiencies in either dystrophin (mdx mice) or γ-sarcoglycan (γSG−/− mice) components of the Dystroglycan Complex lead to upregulation of numerous focal adhesion proteins, and the phosphoprotein paxillin proves to be among the most prominent. In mdx muscle, paxillin-Y31 and Y118 are both hyper-phosphorylated as are key sites in focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and the stretch-stimulatable pro-survival MAPK pathway, whereas γSG−/− muscle exhibits more erratic hyper-phosphorylation. In cultured myotubes, cell tension generated by myosin-II appears required for localization of paxillin to adhesions while vinculin appears more stably integrated. Over-expression of wild-type (WT) paxillin has no obvious effect on focal adhesion density or the physical strength of adhesion, but WT and a Y118F mutant promote contractile sarcomere formation whereas a Y31F mutant shows no effect, implicating Y31 in striation. Self-peeling of cells as well as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) probing of cells with or without myosin II inhibition indicate an increase in cell tension within paxillin-overexpressing cells. However, prednisolone, a first-line glucocorticoid for muscular dystrophies, decreases cell tension without affecting paxillin at adhesions, suggesting a non-linear relationship between paxillin and cell tension. Hypertension that results from upregulation of integrin adhesions is thus a natural and treatable outcome of dystroglycan complex down-regulation.
PMCID: PMC2970638  PMID: 20663583
adhesion; contractility; differentiation; paxillin; muscular dystrophy; hypertensive; glucocorticoid
21.  Rescue of Dystrophic Skeletal Muscle by PGC-1α Involves a Fast to Slow Fiber Type Shift in the mdx Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30063.
Increased utrophin expression is known to reduce pathology in dystrophin-deficient skeletal muscles. Transgenic over-expression of PGC-1α has been shown to increase levels of utrophin mRNA and improve the histology of mdx muscles. Other reports have shown that PGC-1α signaling can lead to increased oxidative capacity and a fast to slow fiber type shift. Given that it has been shown that slow fibers produce and maintain more utrophin than fast skeletal muscle fibers, we hypothesized that over-expression of PGC-1α in post-natal mdx mice would increase utrophin levels via a fiber type shift, resulting in more slow, oxidative fibers that are also more resistant to contraction-induced damage. To test this hypothesis, neonatal mdx mice were injected with recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) driving expression of PGC-1α. PGC-1α over-expression resulted in increased utrophin and type I myosin heavy chain expression as well as elevated mitochondrial protein expression. Muscles were shown to be more resistant to contraction-induced damage and more fatigue resistant. Sirt-1 was increased while p38 activation and NRF-1 were reduced in PGC-1α over-expressing muscle when compared to control. We also evaluated if the use a pharmacological PGC-1α pathway activator, resveratrol, could drive the same physiological changes. Resveratrol administration (100 mg/kg/day) resulted in improved fatigue resistance, but did not achieve significant increases in utrophin expression. These data suggest that the PGC-1α pathway is a potential target for therapeutic intervention in dystrophic skeletal muscle.
PMCID: PMC3256197  PMID: 22253880
22.  Percutaneous transendocardial delivery of self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6 achieves global cardiac gene transfer in canines 
Achieving efficient cardiac gene transfer in a large animal model has proven to be technically challenging. Prior strategies have employed cardio-pulmonary bypass or dual catheterization with the aid of vasodilators to deliver vectors, such as adenovirus, adeno-associated virus or plasmid DNA. While single stranded adeno-associated virus vectors have shown the greatest promise, they suffer from delayed expression, which might be circumvented by using self-complementary vectors. We sought to optimize cardiac gene transfer using a percutaneous transendocardial injection catheter to deliver adeno-associated virus vectors to the canine myocardium. Four vectors were evaluated—single stranded adeno-associated virus 9, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 9, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 8, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6—so that comparison could be made between single stranded and self complementary vectors as well as among serotypes 9, 8, and 6. We demonstrate that self-complementary adeno-associated virus is superior to single stranded adeno-associated virus and that adeno-associated virus 6 is superior to other serotypes evaluated. Biodistribution studies revealed that vector genome copies were 15 to 4000 times more abundant in the heart than in any other organ for self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6. Percutaneous transendocardial injection of self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6 is a safe, effective method for achieving efficient cardiac gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC3241935  PMID: 18813281
23.  Exon-skipped dystrophins for treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: domain structures based on single molecule mechanics with cooperativity in forced unfolding as a key to design 
Cytoskeleton (Hoboken, N.J.)  2010;67(12):796-807.
Force-bearing linkages between the cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix are clearly important to normal cell viability – as is evident in a disease such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which arises in the absence of the linkage protein dystrophin. Therapeutic approaches to DMD include antisense-mediated skipping of exons to delete nonsense mutations while maintaining reading frame, but the structure and stability of the resulting proteins are generally unclear. Here we express and physically characterize dystrophin ‘nano’-constructs based on multi-exon deletions that might find use in a large percentage of DMD patients. The primary structure challenge is addressed first with Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) which can detect tryptic peptides from 53 of dystrophin’s 79 exons; for equivalent information from immunodetection, 53 different high-specificity antibodies would be required. Folding predictions for the nano-constructs reveal novel helical bundle domains arising out of exon-deleted ‘linkers’, while secondary structure studies confirm high helicity and also melting temperatures well above physiological. Extensional forces with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) nonetheless unfold the constructs, and the ensemble of unfolding trajectories reveal the number of folded domains, proving consistent with structure predictions. A mechanical cooperativity parameter for unfolding of tandem domains is also introduced as the best predictor of a multi-exon deletion that is asymptomatic in humans. The results thereby provide insight and confidence in exon-skipped designs.
PMCID: PMC2996834  PMID: 20886611
dystrophin; exon skipping; folding; AFM
24.  Overexpression of SERCA1a in the mdx Diaphragm Reduces Susceptibility to Contraction-Induced Damage 
Human Gene Therapy  2010;21(12):1735-1739.
Preclinical and clinical evidence suggests that calcium homeostasis is dysfunctional in dystrophic muscle. In the current brief report, Morine and colleagues examine whether overexpression of sarcoplasmic reticulum ATPase 1a (SERCA) could reduce muscle damage resulting from calcium homeostasis dysfunction. Using AAV6, the authors found that diaphragm-directed neonatal gene transfer of SERCA in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice resulted in reduced susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced damage at 6 months of age.
Although the precise pathophysiological mechanism of muscle damage in dystrophin-deficient muscle remains disputed, calcium appears to be a critical mediator of the dystrophic process. Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients and mouse models of dystrophin deficiency exhibit extensive abnormalities of calcium homeostasis, which we hypothesized would be mitigated by increased expression of the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium pump. Neonatal adeno-associated virus gene transfer of sarcoplasmic reticulum ATPase 1a to the mdx diaphragm decreased centrally located nuclei and resulted in reduced susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced damage at 6 months of age. As the diaphragm is the mouse muscle most representative of human disease, these results provide impetus for further investigation of therapeutic strategies aimed at enhanced cytosolic calcium removal.
PMCID: PMC2999573  PMID: 20540606
25.  Myostatin Is Elevated in Congenital Heart Disease and After Mechanical Unloading 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23818.
Myostatin is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass whose activity is upregulated in adult heart failure (HF); however, its role in congenital heart disease (CHD) is unknown.
We studied myostatin and IGF-1 expression via Western blot in cardiac tissue at varying degrees of myocardial dysfunction and after biventricular support in CHD by collecting myocardial biopsies from four patient cohorts: A) adult subjects with no known cardiopulmonary disease (left ventricle, LV), (Adult Normal), (n = 5); B) pediatric subjects undergoing congenital cardiac surgery with normal RV size and function (right ventricular outflow tract, RVOT), (n = 3); C) pediatric subjects with worsening but hemodynamically stable LV failure [LV and right ventricle (LV, RV,)] with biopsy collected at the time of orthotopic heart transplant (OHT), (n = 7); and D) pediatric subjects with decompensated bi-ventricular failure on BiVAD support with biopsy collected at OHT (LV, RV, BiVAD), (n = 3).
The duration of HF was longest in OHT patients compared to BIVAD. The duration of BiVAD support was 4.3±1.9 days. Myostatin expression was significantly increased in LV-OHT compared to RV-OHT and RVOT, and was increased more than double in decompensated biventricular HF (BiVAD) compared to both OHT and RVOT. An increased myostatin/IGF-1 ratio was associated with ventricular dysfunction.
Myostatin expression in increased in CHD, and the myostatin/IGF-1 ratio increases as ventricular function deteriorates. Future investigation is necessary to determine if restoration of the physiologic myostatin/IGF-1 ratio has therapeutic potential in HF.
PMCID: PMC3172210  PMID: 21931616

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