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1.  IL-6 and Akt are involved in muscular pathogenesis in myasthenia gravis 
Anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR) autoantibodies target muscles in spontaneous human myasthenia gravis (MG) and its induced experimental autoimmune model MG (EAMG). The aim of this study was to identify novel functional mechanisms occurring in the muscle pathology of myasthenia.
A transcriptome analysis performed on muscle tissue from MG patients (compared with healthy controls) and from EAMG rats (compared with control rats) revealed a deregulation of genes associated with the Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) pathways in both humans and rats. The expression of IL-6 and its receptor IL-6R transcripts was found to be altered in muscles of EAMG rats and mice compared with control animals. In muscle biopsies from MG patients, IL-6 protein level was higher than in control muscles. Using cultures of human muscle cells, we evaluated the effects of anti-AChR antibodies on IL-6 production and on the phosphorylation of Protein Kinase B (PKB/Akt). Most MG sera and some monoclonal anti-AChR antibodies induced a significant increase in IL-6 production by human muscle cells. Furthermore, Akt phosphorylation in response to insulin was decreased in the presence of monoclonal anti-AChR antibodies.
Anti-AChR antibodies alter IL-6 production by muscle cells, suggesting a putative novel functional mechanism of action for the anti-AChR antibodies. IL-6 is a myokine with known effects on signaling pathways such as Akt/mTOR (mammalian Target of Rapamycin). Since Akt plays a key role in multiple cellular processes, the reduced phosphorylation of Akt by the anti-AChR antibodies may have a significant impact on the muscle fatigability observed in MG patients.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-014-0179-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4308930  PMID: 25627031
Myasthenia; Muscle; IL-6, Akt; Anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies
2.  Predictive markers of clinical outcome in the GRMD dog model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2014;7(11):1253-1261.
In the translational process of developing innovative therapies for DMD (Duchenne muscular dystrophy), the last preclinical validation step is often carried out in the most relevant animal model of this human disease, namely the GRMD (Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy) dog. The disease in GRMD dogs mimics human DMD in many aspects, including the inter-individual heterogeneity. This last point can be seen as a drawback for an animal model but is inherently related to the disease in GRMD dogs closely resembling that of individuals with DMD. In order to improve the management of this inter-individual heterogeneity, we have screened a combination of biomarkers in sixty-one 2-month-old GRMD dogs at the onset of the disease and a posteriori we addressed their predictive value on the severity of the disease. Three non-invasive biomarkers obtained at early stages of the disease were found to be highly predictive for the loss of ambulation before 6 months of age. An elevation in the number of circulating CD4+CD49dhi T cells and a decreased stride frequency resulting in a reduced spontaneous speed were found to be strongly associated with the severe clinical form of the disease. These factors can be used as predictive tests to screen dogs to separate them into groups with slow or fast disease progression before their inclusion into a therapeutic preclinical trial, and therefore improve the reliability and translational value of the trials carried out on this invaluable large animal model. These same biomarkers have also been described to be predictive for the time to loss of ambulation in boys with DMD, strengthening the relevance of GRMD dogs as preclinical models of this devastating muscle disease.
PMCID: PMC4213729  PMID: 25261568
GRMD; DMD; Dystrophin; Dog; Predictive biomarker; Lymphocyte; CD49d; Gait analysis; Accelerometry
3.  Inflammation-Induced Acute Phase Response in Skeletal Muscle and Critical Illness Myopathy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92048.
Systemic inflammation is a major risk factor for critical-illness myopathy (CIM) but its pathogenic role in muscle is uncertain. We observed that interleukin 6 (IL-6) and serum amyloid A1 (SAA1) expression was upregulated in muscle of critically ill patients. To test the relevance of these responses we assessed inflammation and acute-phase response at early and late time points in muscle of patients at risk for CIM.
Prospective observational clinical study and prospective animal trial.
Two intensive care units (ICU) and research laboratory.
33 patients with Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores ≥8 on 3 consecutive days within 5 days in ICU were investigated. A subgroup analysis of 12 patients with, and 18 patients without CIM (non-CIM) was performed. Two consecutive biopsies from vastus lateralis were obtained at median days 5 and 15, early and late time points. Controls were 5 healthy subjects undergoing elective orthopedic surgery. A septic mouse model and cultured myoblasts were used for mechanistic analyses.
Measurements and Main Results
Early SAA1 expression was significantly higher in skeletal muscle of CIM compared to non-CIM patients. Immunohistochemistry showed SAA1 accumulations in muscle of CIM patients at the early time point, which resolved later. SAA1 expression was induced by IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in human and mouse myocytes in vitro. Inflammation-induced muscular SAA1 accumulation was reproduced in a sepsis mouse model.
Skeletal muscle contributes to general inflammation and acute-phase response in CIM patients. Muscular SAA1 could be important for CIM pathogenesis.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3961297  PMID: 24651840
4.  Reversal of Myoblast Aging by Tocotrienol Rich Fraction Posttreatment 
Skeletal muscle satellite cells are heavily involved in the regeneration of skeletal muscle in response to the aging-related deterioration of the skeletal muscle mass, strength, and regenerative capacity, termed as sarcopenia. This study focused on the effect of tocotrienol rich fraction (TRF) on regenerative capacity of myoblasts in stress-induced premature senescence (SIPS). The myoblasts was grouped as young control, SIPS-induced, TRF control, TRF pretreatment, and TRF posttreatment. Optimum dose of TRF, morphological observation, activity of senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-galactosidase), and cell proliferation were determined. 50 μg/mL TRF treatment exhibited the highest cell proliferation capacity. SIPS-induced myoblasts exhibit large flattened cells and prominent intermediate filaments (senescent-like morphology). The activity of SA-β-galactosidase was significantly increased, but the proliferation capacity was significantly reduced as compared to young control. The activity of SA-β-galactosidase was significantly reduced and cell proliferation was significantly increased in the posttreatment group whereas there was no significant difference in SA-β-galactosidase activity and proliferation capacity of pretreatment group as compared to SIPS-induced myoblasts. Based on the data, we hypothesized that TRF may reverse the myoblasts aging through replenishing the regenerative capacity of the cells. However, further investigation on the mechanism of TRF in reversing the myoblast aging is needed.
PMCID: PMC3856141  PMID: 24349615
5.  Reading Frame Correction by Targeted Genome Editing Restores Dystrophin Expression in Cells From Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Patients 
Molecular Therapy  2013;21(9):1718-1726.
Genome editing with engineered nucleases has recently emerged as an approach to correct genetic mutations by enhancing homologous recombination with a DNA repair template. However, many genetic diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), can be treated simply by correcting a disrupted reading frame. We show that genome editing with transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), without a repair template, can efficiently correct the reading frame and restore the expression of a functional dystrophin protein that is mutated in DMD. TALENs were engineered to mediate highly efficient gene editing at exon 51 of the dystrophin gene. This led to restoration of dystrophin protein expression in cells from Duchenne patients, including skeletal myoblasts and dermal fibroblasts that were reprogrammed to the myogenic lineage by MyoD. Finally, exome sequencing of cells with targeted modifications of the dystrophin locus showed no TALEN-mediated off-target changes to the protein-coding regions of the genome, as predicted by in silico target site analysis. This strategy integrates the rapid and robust assembly of active TALENs with an efficient gene-editing method for the correction of genetic diseases caused by mutations in non-essential coding regions that cause frameshifts or premature stop codons.
PMCID: PMC3776627  PMID: 23732986
6.  Genome-Wide Exploration of miRNA Function in Mammalian Muscle Cell Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71927.
MiRNAs impact on the control of cell fate by regulating gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Here, using mammalian muscle differentiation as a model and a phenotypic loss-of-function screen, we explored the function of miRNAs at the genome-wide level. We found that the depletion of a high number of miRNAs (63) impacted on differentiation of human muscle precursors, underscoring the importance of this post-transcriptional mechanism of gene regulation. Interestingly, a comparison with miRNA expression profiles revealed that most of the hit miRNAs did not show any significant variations of expression during differentiation. These constitutively expressed miRNAs might be required for basic and/or essential cell function, or else might be regulated at the post-transcriptional level. MiRNA inhibition yielded a variety of phenotypes, reflecting the widespread miRNA involvement in differentiation. Using a functional screen (the STarS - Suppressor Target Screen – approach, i. e. concomitant knockdown of miRNAs and of candidate target proteins), we discovered miRNA protein targets that are previously uncharacterized controllers of muscle-cell terminal differentiation. Our results provide a strategy for functional annotation of the human miRnome.
PMCID: PMC3749189  PMID: 23991007
7.  Understanding and combating age-related muscle weakness: MYOAGE challenge 
Biogerontology  2013;14(3):229-230.
PMCID: PMC3718989  PMID: 23793985
8.  Age-dependent alteration in muscle regeneration: the critical role of tissue niche 
Biogerontology  2013;14(3):273-292.
Although adult skeletal muscle is composed of fully differentiated fibers, it retains the capacity to regenerate in response to injury and to modify its contractile and metabolic properties in response to changing demands. The major role in the growth, remodeling and regeneration is played by satellite cells, a quiescent population of myogenic precursor cells that reside between the basal lamina and plasmalemma and that are rapidly activated in response to appropriate stimuli. However, in pathologic conditions or during aging, the complete regenerative program can be precluded by fibrotic tissue formation and resulting in functional impairment of the skeletal muscle. Our study, along with other studies, demonstrated that although the regenerative program can also be impaired by the limited proliferative capacity of satellite cells, this limit is not reached during normal aging, and it is more likely that the restricted muscle repair program in aging is presumably due to missing signals that usually render the damaged muscle a permissive environment for regenerative activity.
PMCID: PMC3719007  PMID: 23666344
Sarcopenia; Muscle regeneration; Satellite cells; Tissue niche; Growth factors; Stem cells
9.  Rescue of nonsense mutations by amlexanox in human cells 
Nonsense mutations are at the origin of many cancers and inherited genetic diseases. The consequence of nonsense mutations is often the absence of mutant gene expression due to the activation of an mRNA surveillance mechanism called nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD). Strategies to rescue the expression of nonsense-containing mRNAs have been developed such as NMD inhibition or nonsense mutation readthrough.
Using a dedicated screening system, we sought molecules capable to block NMD. Additionally, 3 cell lines derived from patient cells and harboring a nonsense mutation were used to study the effect of the selected molecule on the level of nonsense-containing mRNAs and the synthesis of proteins from these mutant mRNAs.
We demonstrate here that amlexanox, a drug used for decades, not only induces an increase in nonsense-containing mRNAs amount in treated cells, but also leads to the synthesis of the full-length protein in an efficient manner. We also demonstrated that these full length proteins are functional.
As a result of this dual activity, amlexanox may be useful as a therapeutic approach for diseases caused by nonsense mutations.
PMCID: PMC3562214  PMID: 22938201
NMD/nonsense mutation/readthrough/RNA/small molecules
10.  Dysferlin-deficient immortalized human myoblasts and myotubes as a useful tool to study dysferlinopathy 
PLoS Currents  2012;4:RRN1298.
Dysferlin gene mutations causing LGMD2B are associated with defects in muscle membrane repair. Four stable cell lines have been established from primary human dysferlin-deficient myoblasts harbouring different mutations in the dysferlin gene. We have compared immortalized human myoblasts and myotubes carrying disease-causing mutations in dysferlin to their wild-type counterparts. Fusion of myoblasts into myotubes and expression of muscle-specific differentiation markers were investigated with special emphasis on dysferlin protein expression, subcellular localization and function in membrane repair. We found that the immortalized myoblasts and myotubes were virtually indistinguishable from their parental cell line for all of the criteria we investigated. They therefore will provide a very useful tool to further investigate dysferlin function and pathophysiology as well as to test therapeutic strategies at the cellular level.
PMCID: PMC3274833  PMID: 22367358
11.  Dysferlin-deficient immortalized human myoblasts and myotubes as a useful tool to study dysferlinopathy 
PLoS Currents  2012;4:RRN1298.
Dysferlin gene mutations causing LGMD2B are associated with defects in muscle membrane repair. Four stable cell lines have been established from primary human dysferlin-deficient myoblasts harbouring different mutations in the dysferlin gene. We have compared immortalized human myoblasts and myotubes carrying disease-causing mutations in dysferlin to their wild-type counterparts. Fusion of myoblasts into myotubes and expression of muscle-specific differentiation markers were investigated with special emphasis on dysferlin protein expression, subcellular localization and function in membrane repair. We found that the immortalized myoblasts and myotubes were virtually indistinguishable from their parental cell line for all of the criteria we investigated. They therefore will provide a very useful tool to further investigate dysferlin function and pathophysiology as well as to test therapeutic strategies at the cellular level.
PMCID: PMC3274833  PMID: 22367358
12.  Regenerative potential of human muscle stem cells in chronic inflammation 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R207.
Chronic inflammation is a profound systemic modification of the cellular microenvironment which could affect survival, repair and maintenance of muscle stem cells. The aim of this study was to define the role of chronic inflammation on the regenerative potential of satellite cells in human muscle.
As a model for chronic inflammation, 11 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were included together with 16 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) as controls. The mean age of both groups was 64 years, with more females in the RA group compared to the OA group. During elective knee replacement surgery, a muscle biopsy was taken from the distal musculus vastus medialis. Cell populations from four RA and eight OA patients were used for extensive phenotyping because these cell populations showed no spontaneous differentiation and myogenic purity greater than 75% after explantation.
After mononuclear cell explantation, myogenic purity, viability, proliferation index, number of colonies, myogenic colonies, growth speed, maximum number of population doublings and fusion index were not different between RA and OA patients. Furthermore, the expression of proteins involved in replicative and stress-induced premature senescence and apoptosis, including p16, p21, p53, hTERT and cleaved caspase-3, was not different between RA and OA patients. Mean telomere length was shorter in the RA group compared to the OA group.
In the present study we found evidence that chronic inflammation in RA does not affect the in vitro regenerative potential of human satellite cells. Identification of mechanisms influencing muscle regeneration by modulation of its microenvironment may, therefore, be more appropriate.
PMCID: PMC3334660  PMID: 22171690
13.  Immortalized pathological human myoblasts: towards a universal tool for the study of neuromuscular disorders 
Skeletal Muscle  2011;1:34.
Investigations into both the pathophysiology and therapeutic targets in muscle dystrophies have been hampered by the limited proliferative capacity of human myoblasts. Isolation of reliable and stable immortalized cell lines from patient biopsies is a powerful tool for investigating pathological mechanisms, including those associated with muscle aging, and for developing innovative gene-based, cell-based or pharmacological biotherapies.
Using transduction with both telomerase-expressing and cyclin-dependent kinase 4-expressing vectors, we were able to generate a battery of immortalized human muscle stem-cell lines from patients with various neuromuscular disorders.
The immortalized human cell lines from patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, congenital muscular dystrophy, and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B had greatly increased proliferative capacity, and maintained their potential to differentiate both in vitro and in vivo after transplantation into regenerating muscle of immunodeficient mice.
Dystrophic cellular models are required as a supplement to animal models to assess cellular mechanisms, such as signaling defects, or to perform high-throughput screening for therapeutic molecules. These investigations have been conducted for many years on cells derived from animals, and would greatly benefit from having human cell models with prolonged proliferative capacity. Furthermore, the possibility to assess in vivo the regenerative capacity of these cells extends their potential use. The innovative cellular tools derived from several different neuromuscular diseases as described in this report will allow investigation of the pathophysiology of these disorders and assessment of new therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3235972  PMID: 22040608
14.  Multi-Tasking Role of the Mechanosensing Protein Ankrd2 in the Signaling Network of Striated Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25519.
Ankrd2 (also known as Arpp) together with Ankrd1/CARP and DARP are members of the MARP mechanosensing proteins that form a complex with titin (N2A)/calpain 3 protease/myopalladin. In muscle, Ankrd2 is located in the I-band of the sarcomere and moves to the nucleus of adjacent myofibers on muscle injury. In myoblasts it is predominantly in the nucleus and on differentiation shifts from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. In agreement with its role as a sensor it interacts both with sarcomeric proteins and transcription factors.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Expression profiling of endogenous Ankrd2 silenced in human myotubes was undertaken to elucidate its role as an intermediary in cell signaling pathways. Silencing Ankrd2 expression altered the expression of genes involved in both intercellular communication (cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, endocytosis, focal adhesion, tight junction, gap junction and regulation of the actin cytoskeleton) and intracellular communication (calcium, insulin, MAPK, p53, TGF-β and Wnt signaling). The significance of Ankrd2 in cell signaling was strengthened by the fact that we were able to show for the first time that Nkx2.5 and p53 are upstream effectors of the Ankrd2 gene and that Ankrd1/CARP, another MARP member, can modulate the transcriptional ability of MyoD on the Ankrd2 promoter. Another novel finding was the interaction between Ankrd2 and proteins with PDZ and SH3 domains, further supporting its role in signaling. It is noteworthy that we demonstrated that transcription factors PAX6, LHX2, NFIL3 and MECP2, were able to bind both the Ankrd2 protein and its promoter indicating the presence of a regulatory feedback loop mechanism.
In conclusion we demonstrate that Ankrd2 is a potent regulator in muscle cells affecting a multitude of pathways and processes.
PMCID: PMC3189947  PMID: 22016770
16.  DUX4c Is Up-Regulated in FSHD. It Induces the MYF5 Protein and Human Myoblast Proliferation 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7482.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a dominant disease linked to contractions of the D4Z4 repeat array in 4q35. We have previously identified a double homeobox gene (DUX4) within each D4Z4 unit that encodes a transcription factor expressed in FSHD but not control myoblasts. DUX4 and its target genes contribute to the global dysregulation of gene expression observed in FSHD. We have now characterized the homologous DUX4c gene mapped 42 kb centromeric of the D4Z4 repeat array. It encodes a 47-kDa protein with a double homeodomain identical to DUX4 but divergent in the carboxyl-terminal region. DUX4c was detected in primary myoblast extracts by Western blot with a specific antiserum, and was induced upon differentiation. The protein was increased about 2-fold in FSHD versus control myotubes but reached 2-10-fold induction in FSHD muscle biopsies. We have shown by Western blot and by a DNA-binding assay that DUX4c over-expression induced the MYF5 myogenic regulator and its DNA-binding activity. DUX4c might stabilize the MYF5 protein as we detected their interaction by co-immunoprecipitation. In keeping with the known role of Myf5 in myoblast accumulation during mouse muscle regeneration DUX4c over-expression activated proliferation of human primary myoblasts and inhibited their differentiation. Altogether, these results suggested that DUX4c could be involved in muscle regeneration and that changes in its expression could contribute to the FSHD pathology.
PMCID: PMC2759506  PMID: 19829708
17.  Human Muscle Satellite Cells as Targets of Chikungunya Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(6):e527.
Chikungunya (CHIK) virus is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes in humans an acute infection characterised by fever, polyarthralgia, head-ache, and myalgia. Since 2005, the emergence of CHIK virus was associated with an unprecedented magnitude outbreak of CHIK disease in the Indian Ocean. Clinically, this outbreak was characterized by invalidating poly-arthralgia, with myalgia being reported in 97.7% of cases. Since the cellular targets of CHIK virus in humans are unknown, we studied the pathogenic events and targets of CHIK infection in skeletal muscle.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Immunohistology on muscle biopsies from two CHIK virus-infected patients with myositic syndrome showed that viral antigens were found exclusively inside skeletal muscle progenitor cells (designed as satelllite cells), and not in muscle fibers. To evaluate the ability of CHIK virus to replicate in human satellite cells, we assessed virus infection on primary human muscle cells; viral growth was observed in CHIK virus-infected satellite cells with a cytopathic effect, whereas myotubes were essentially refractory to infection.
This report provides new insights into CHIK virus pathogenesis, since it is the first to identify a cellular target of CHIK virus in humans and to report a selective infection of muscle satellite cells by a viral agent in humans.
PMCID: PMC1885285  PMID: 17565380
18.  Human circulating AC133+ stem cells restore dystrophin expression and ameliorate function in dystrophic skeletal muscle 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(2):182-195.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a common X-linked disease characterized by widespread muscle damage that invariably leads to paralysis and death. There is currently no therapy for this disease. Here we report that a subpopulation of circulating cells expressing AC133, a well-characterized marker of hematopoietic stem cells, also expresses early myogenic markers. Freshly isolated, circulating AC133+ cells were induced to undergo myogenesis when cocultured with myogenic cells or exposed to Wnt-producing cells in vitro and when delivered in vivo through the arterial circulation or directly into the muscles of transgenic scid/mdx mice (which allow survival of human cells). Injected cells also localized under the basal lamina of host muscle fibers and expressed satellite cell markers such as M-cadherin and MYF5. Furthermore, functional tests of injected muscles revealed a substantial recovery of force after treatment. As these cells can be isolated from the blood, manipulated in vitro, and delivered through the circulation, they represent a possible tool for future cell therapy applications in DMD disease or other muscular dystrophies.
PMCID: PMC449743  PMID: 15254585
19.  Zasp 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;146(2):465-476.
PDZ motifs are modular protein–protein interaction domains, consisting of 80–120 amino acid residues, whose function appears to be the direction of intracellular proteins to multiprotein complexes. In skeletal muscle, there are a few known PDZ-domain proteins, which include neuronal nitric oxide synthase and syntrophin, both of which are components of the dystrophin complex, and actinin-associated LIM protein, which binds to the spectrin-like repeats of α-actinin-2. Here, we report the identification and characterization of a new skeletal muscle protein containing a PDZ domain that binds to the COOH-terminal region of α-actinin-2. This novel 31-kD protein is specifically expressed in heart and skeletal muscle. Using antibodies produced to a fragment of the protein, we can show its location in the sarcomere at the level of the Z-band by immunoelectron microscopy. At least two proteins, 32 kD and 78 kD, can be detected by Western blot analysis of both heart and skeletal muscle, suggesting the existence of alternative forms of the protein. In fact, several forms were found that appear to be the result of alternative splicing. The transcript coding for this Z-band alternatively spliced PDZ motif (ZASP) protein maps on chromosome 10q22.3-10q23.2, near the locus for infantile-onset spinocerebellar ataxia.
PMCID: PMC3206570  PMID: 10427098
skeletal muscle; sarcomeres; muscle proteins; immunoelectron microscopy; alternative splicing

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