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1.  Elevation of proinflammatory cytokines in patients with Aicardi-Goutières syndrome 
Neurology  2013;80(11):997-1002.
This study explores a large panel of cytokines in plasma and CSF of patients with Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS) at different ages, in order to establish signatures of cytokines most predictive of AGS.
Plasma from 22 subjects with known mutations were assayed for cytokines using the Milliplex MAP Immunobead system, and compared to results from 8 age-matched normal controls. CSF of 11 additional patients with mutation-proven AGS was tested in an identical manner and compared to results from age-matched controls. Samples were banked and analysis was carried out retrospectively.
Significant elevations were seen in FMS-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand, IP-10, interleukin (IL)–12p40, IL-15, tumor necrosis factor α, and soluble IL 2 receptor α in both AGS patient plasma and CSF relative to controls. Additionally, this cytokine signature was able to correctly cluster 9 of 11 AGS cases based on CSF values. While most cytokines decreased exponentially with age, a subgroup including IP-10 demonstrated persistent elevation beyond early childhood.
Patients with AGS exhibit plasma and CSF elevations of proinflammatory cytokines. Selected cytokines remain persistently elevated beyond the initial disease phase. This panel of proinflammatory cytokines may be considered for use as diagnostic and therapeutic markers of disease, and may permit improved understanding of disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3653200  PMID: 23408864
2.  The molecular basis of skeletal muscle weakness in a mouse model of inflammatory myopathy 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3750-3759.
It is generally believed that muscle weakness in patients with polymyositis and dermatomyositis is due to autoimmune and inflammatory processes. However, it has been observed that there is a poor correlation between the suppression of inflammation and a recovery of muscle function in patients. We have therefore hypothesized that non-immune mechanisms also contribute to muscle weakness. In particular, it has been suggested that an acquired deficiency of AMP deaminase (AMPD1) may be responsible for muscle weakness in myositis.
We have used comprehensive functional, behavioral, histological, molecular, enzymatic and metabolic assessments before and after the onset of inflammation in MHC class I mouse model of autoimmune inflammatory myositis.
We found that muscle weakness and metabolic disturbances were detectable in the mice prior to the appearance of infiltrating mononuclear cells. Force contraction analysis of muscle function revealed that weakness was correlated with AMDP1 expression and was myositis-specific. We also demonstrated that decreasing AMPD1 expression results in decreased muscle strength in healthy mice. Fiber typing suggested that fast-twitch muscles are converted to slow-twitch muscles as myositis progresses, and microarray results indicated that AMPD1 and other purine nucleotide pathway genes are suppressed, along with genes essential to glycolysis.
These data suggest that an AMPD1 deficiency is acquired prior to overt muscle inflammation and is responsible, at least in part, for the muscle weakness that occurs in the mouse model of myositis. AMPD1 is therefore a potential therapeutic target in myositis.
PMCID: PMC3485437  PMID: 22806328
3.  VBP15, a novel anti-inflammatory and membrane-stabilizer, improves muscular dystrophy without side effects 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(10):1569-1585.
Absence of dystrophin makes skeletal muscle more susceptible to injury, resulting in breaches of the plasma membrane and chronic inflammation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Current management by glucocorticoids has unclear molecular benefits and harsh side effects. It is uncertain whether therapies that avoid hormonal stunting of growth and development, and/or immunosuppression, would be more or less beneficial. Here, we discover an oral drug with mechanisms that provide efficacy through anti-inflammatory signaling and membrane-stabilizing pathways, independent of hormonal or immunosuppressive effects. We find VBP15 protects and promotes efficient repair of skeletal muscle cells upon laser injury, in opposition to prednisolone. Potent inhibition of NF-κB is mediated through protein interactions of the glucocorticoid receptor, however VBP15 shows significantly reduced hormonal receptor transcriptional activity. The translation of these drug mechanisms into DMD model mice improves muscle strength, live-imaging and pathology through both preventive and post-onset intervention regimens. These data demonstrate successful improvement of dystrophy independent of hormonal, growth, or immunosuppressive effects, indicating VBP15 merits clinical investigation for DMD and would benefit other chronic inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3799580  PMID: 24014378
anti-inflammatory; dystrophy; mdx; membrane injury; muscle
4.  The Proton Pump Inhibitor Lansoprazole Improves the Skeletal Phenotype in Dystrophin Deficient mdx Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e66617.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), loss of the membrane stabilizing protein dystrophin results in myofiber damage. Microinjury to dystrophic myofibers also causes secondary imbalances in sarcolemmic ion permeability and resting membrane potential, which modifies excitation-contraction coupling and increases proinflammatory/apoptotic signaling cascades. Although glucocorticoids remain the standard of care for the treatment of DMD, there is a need to investigate the efficacy of other pharmacological agents targeting the involvement of imbalances in ion flux on dystrophic pathology.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We designed a preclinical trial to investigate the effects of lansoprazole (LANZO) administration, a proton pump inhibitor, on the dystrophic muscle phenotype in dystrophin deficient (mdx) mice. Eight to ten week-old female mice were assigned to one of four treatment groups (n = 12 per group): (1) vehicle control; (2) 5 mg/kg/day LANZO; (3) 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone; and (4) combined treatment of 5 mg/kg/day prednisolone (PRED) and 5 mg/kg/day LANZO. Treatment was administered orally 5 d/wk for 3 months. At the end of the study, behavioral (Digiscan) and functional outcomes (grip strength and Rotarod) were assessed prior to sacrifice. After sacrifice, body, tissue and organ masses, muscle histology, in vitro muscle force, and creatine kinase levels were measured. Mice in the combined treatment groups displayed significant reductions in the number of degenerating muscle fibers and number of inflammatory foci per muscle field relative to vehicle control. Additionally, mice in the combined treatment group displayed less of a decline in normalized forelimb and hindlimb grip strength and declines in in vitro EDL force after repeated eccentric contractions.
Together our findings suggest that combined treatment of LANZO and prednisolone attenuates some components of dystrophic pathology in mdx mice. Our findings warrant future investigation of the clinical efficacy of LANZO and prednisolone combined treatment regimens in dystrophic pathology.
PMCID: PMC3699610  PMID: 23843959
5.  Daily Supplementation of D-ribose Shows No Therapeutic Benefits in the MHC-I Transgenic Mouse Model of Inflammatory Myositis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65970.
Current treatments for idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (collectively called myositis) focus on the suppression of an autoimmune inflammatory response within the skeletal muscle. However, it has been observed that there is a poor correlation between the successful suppression of muscle inflammation and an improvement in muscle function. Some evidence in the literature suggests that metabolic abnormalities in the skeletal muscle underlie the weakness that continues despite successful immunosuppression. We have previously shown that decreased expression of a purine nucleotide cycle enzyme, adenosine monophosphate deaminase (AMPD1), leads to muscle weakness in a mouse model of myositis and may provide a mechanistic basis for muscle weakness. One of the downstream metabolites of this pathway, D-ribose, has been reported to alleviate symptoms of myalgia in patients with a congenital loss of AMPD1. Therefore, we hypothesized that supplementing exogenous D-ribose would improve muscle function in the mouse model of myositis. We treated normal and myositis mice with daily doses of D-ribose (4 mg/kg) over a 6-week time period and assessed its effects using a battery of behavioral, functional, histological and molecular measures.
Treatment with D-ribose was found to have no statistically significant effects on body weight, grip strength, open field behavioral activity, maximal and specific forces of EDL, soleus muscles, or histological features. Histological and gene expression analysis indicated that muscle tissues remained inflamed despite treatment. Gene expression analysis also suggested that low levels of the ribokinase enzyme in the skeletal muscle might prevent skeletal muscle tissue from effectively utilizing D-ribose.
Treatment with daily oral doses of D-ribose showed no significant effect on either disease progression or muscle function in the mouse model of myositis.
PMCID: PMC3681851  PMID: 23785461
6.  Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies: pathogenic mechanisms of muscle weakness 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:13.
Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIMs) are a heterogenous group of complex muscle diseases of unknown etiology. These diseases are characterized by progressive muscle weakness and damage, together with involvement of other organ systems. It is generally believed that the autoimmune response (autoreactive lymphocytes and autoantibodies) to skeletal muscle-derived antigens is responsible for the muscle fiber damage and muscle weakness in this group of disorders. Therefore, most of the current therapeutic strategies are directed at either suppressing or modifying immune cell activity. Recent studies have indicated that the underlying mechanisms that mediate muscle damage and dysfunction are multiple and complex. Emerging evidence indicates that not only autoimmune responses but also innate immune and non-immune metabolic pathways contribute to disease pathogenesis. However, the relative contributions of each of these mechanisms to disease pathogenesis are currently unknown. Here we discuss some of these complex pathways, their inter-relationships and their relation to muscle damage in myositis. Understanding the relative contributions of each of these pathways to disease pathogenesis would help us to identify suitable drug targets to alleviate muscle damage and also improve muscle weakness and quality of life for patients suffering from these debilitating muscle diseases.
PMCID: PMC3681571  PMID: 23758833
Adaptive immune; Autophagy; Cytokines; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Innate immune; Myositis; Skeletal muscle; TLRs
7.  Omigapil Treatment Decreases Fibrosis and Improves Respiratory Rate in dy2J Mouse Model of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65468.
Congenital muscular dystrophy is a distinct group of diseases presenting with weakness in infancy or childhood and no current therapy. One form, MDC1A, is the result of laminin alpha-2 deficiency and results in significant weakness, respiratory insufficiency and early death. Modification of apoptosis is one potential pathway for therapy in these patients.
dy2J mice were treated with vehicle, 0.1 mg/kg or 1 mg/kg of omigapil daily via oral gavage over 17.5 weeks. Untreated age matched BL6 mice were used as controls. Functional, behavioral and histological measurements were collected.
dy2J mice treated with omigapil showed improved respiratory rates compared to vehicle treated dy2J mice (396 to 402 vs. 371 breaths per minute, p<0.03) and similar to control mice. There were no statistical differences in normalized forelimb grip strength between dy2J and controls at baseline or after 17.5 weeks and no significant differences seen among the dy2J treatment groups. At 30–33 weeks of age, dy2J mice treated with 0.1 mg/kg omigapil showed significantly more movement time and less rest time compared to vehicle treated. dy2J mice showed normal cardiac systolic function throughout the trial. dy2J mice had significantly lower hindlimb maximal (p<0.001) and specific force (p<0.002) compared to the control group at the end of the trial. There were no statistically significant differences in maximal or specific force among treatments. dy2J mice treated with 0.1 mg/kg/day omigapil showed decreased percent fibrosis in both gastrocnemius (p<0.03) and diaphragm (p<0.001) compared to vehicle, and in diaphragm (p<0.013) when compared to 1 mg/kg/day omigapil treated mice. Omigapil treated dy2J mice demonstrated decreased apoptosis.
Omigapil therapy (0.1 mg/kg) improved respiratory rate and decreased skeletal and respiratory muscle fibrosis in dy2J mice. These results support a putative role for the use of omigapil in laminin deficient congenital muscular dystrophy patients.
PMCID: PMC3675144  PMID: 23762378
8.  Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Skeletal Muscle Homeostasis and Disease 
Current rheumatology reports  2012;14(3):238-243.
Our appreciation of the role of endoplasmic reticulum(ER) stress pathways in both skeletal muscle homeostasis and the progression of muscle diseases is gaining momentum. This review provides insight into ER stress mechanisms during physiologic and pathological disturbances in skeletal muscle. The role of ER stress in the response to dietary alterations and acute stressors, including its role in autoimmune and genetic muscle disorders, has been described. Recent studies identifying ER stress markers in diseased skeletal muscle are noted. The emerging evidence for ER–mitochondrial interplay in skeletal muscle and its importance during chronic ER stress in activation of both inflammatory and cell death pathways (autophagy, necrosis, and apoptosis) have been discussed. Thus, understanding the ER stress–related molecular pathways underlying physiologic and pathological phenotypes in healthy and diseased skeletal muscle should lead to novel therapeutic targets for muscle disease.
PMCID: PMC3587844  PMID: 22410828
Skeletal muscle; Endoplasmic reticulum; Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Mitochondria; Myositis; ER stress; Autophagy; Necrosis; Apoptosis; Muscle disease
9.  VBP15, a Glucocorticoid Analogue, Is Effective at Reducing Allergic Lung Inflammation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63871.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lower respiratory tract associated with airway hyperreactivity and mucus obstruction in which a majority of cases are due to an allergic response to environmental allergens. Glucocorticoids such as prednisone have been standard treatment for many inflammatory diseases for the past 60 years. However, despite their effectiveness, long-term treatment is often limited by adverse side effects believed to be caused by glucocorticoid receptor-mediated gene transcription. This has led to the pursuit of compounds that retain the anti-inflammatory properties yet lack the adverse side effects associated with traditional glucocorticoids. We have developed a novel series of steroidal analogues (VBP compounds) that have been previously shown to maintain anti-inflammatory properties such as NFκB-inhibition without inducing glucocorticoid receptor-mediated gene transcription. This study was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of the lead compound, VBP15, in a mouse model of allergic lung inflammation. We show that VBP15 is as effective as the traditional glucocorticoid, prednisolone, at reducing three major hallmarks of lung inflammation—NFκB activity, leukocyte degranulation, and pro-inflammatory cytokine release from human bronchial epithelial cells obtained from patients with asthma. Moreover, we found that VBP15 is capable of reducing inflammation of the lung in vivo to an extent similar to that of prednisone. We found that prednisolone–but not VBP15 shortens the tibia in mice upon a 5 week treatment regimen suggesting effective dissociation of side effects from efficacy. These findings suggest that VBP15 may represent a potent and safer alternative to traditional glucocorticoids in the treatment of asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3646769  PMID: 23667681
10.  Novel Approaches to Corticosteroid Treatment in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PMCID: PMC3606917  PMID: 23137739
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Corticosteroids; Glucocorticoids; Dissociative steroids
11.  GREG cells, a dysferlin-deficient myogenic mouse cell line 
Experimental cell research  2011;318(2):127-135.
The dysferlinopathies (e.g. LGMD2b, Myoshi myopathy) are progressive, adult-onset muscle wasting syndromes caused by mutations in the gene coding for dysferlin. Dysferlin is a large (~200 kDa) membrane-anchored protein, required for maintenance of plasmalemmal integrity in muscle fibers. To facilitate analysis of dysferlin function in muscle cells, we have established a dysferlin-deficient myogenic cell line (GREG cells) from the A/J mouse, a genetic model for dysferlinopathy. GREG cells have no detectable dysferlin expression, but proliferate normally in growth medium and fuse into functional myotubes in differentiation medium. GREG myotubes exhibit deficiencies in plasma membrane repair, as measured by laser wounding in the presence of FM1-43 dye. Under the wounding conditions used, the majority (~66%) of GREG myotubes lack membrane repair capacity, while no membrane repair deficiency was observed in dysferlin-normal C2C12 myotubes, assayed under the same conditions. We discuss the possibility that the observed heterogeneity in membrane resealing represents genetic compensation for dysferlin deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3541016  PMID: 22020321
dysferlin; myoblast; myotube; resealing
12.  Enhancing translation: guidelines for standard pre-clinical experiments in mdx mice 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2011;22(1):43-49.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is an X-linked disorder that affects boys and leads to muscle wasting and death due to cardiac involvement and respiratory complications. The cause is the absence of dystrophin, a large structural protein indispensable for muscle cell function and viability. Neither an effective treatment nor a cure is available at the present time. The mdx mouse has become the standard animal model for pre-clinical evaluation of potential therapeutic treatments. Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the number of experimental compounds being evaluated in the mdx mouse. There is, however, much variability in the design of these pre-clinical experimental studies. This has made it difficult to interpret and compare published data from different laboratories and to evaluate the potential of a treatment for application to patients. The authors therefore propose the introduction of a standard study design for the mdx mouse model. Several aspects, including animal care, sampling times and choice of tissues, as well as recommended endpoints and methodologies are addressed and, for each aspect, a standard procedure is proposed. Testing of all new molecules/drugs using a widely accepted and agreed upon standard experimental protocol would greatly improve the power of pre-clinical experimentations and help identifying promising therapies for the translation into clinical trials for boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3227750  PMID: 21737275
DMD; mdx; methods; standard operating procedures; pre-clinical experiments
13.  The role of tumor necrosis factor-α-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in mediating autophagy in myositis skeletal muscle: A potential non-immune mechanism of muscle damage 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(11):3448-3457.
Multinucleated cells are relatively resistant to classical apoptosis, and the factors initiating cell-death and damage in myositis are not well defined. We hypothesized that non-immune autophagic cell death may play a role in muscle fiber damage. Recent literature indicates that tumor necrosis factor-alpha-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) may induce both NFκB (nuclear factor kappa-light chain enhancer of activated B cells) activation and autophagic cell death in other systems. Here, we have investigated its role in cell death and pathogenesis in vitro and in vivo using myositis (human and mouse) muscle tissues.
Gene expression profiling indicated that expression of TRAIL and several autophagy markers was specifically upregulated in myositis muscle tissue; these results were confirmed by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. We also analyzed TRAIL-induced cell death (apoptosis and autophagy) and NFκB activation in vitro in cultured cells.
TRAIL was expressed predominantly in muscle fibers of myositis, but not in biopsies from normal or other dystrophic-diseased muscle. Autophagy markers were upregulated in human and mouse models of myositis. TRAIL expression was restricted to regenerating/atrophic areas of muscle fascicles, blood vessels, and infiltrating lymphocytes. TRAIL induced NFκB activation and IκB degradation in cultured cells that are resistant to TRAIL-induced apoptosis but undergo autophagic cell death.
Our data demonstrate that TRAIL is expressed in myositis muscle and may mediate both activation of NFκB and autophagic cell death in myositis. Thus, this non-immune pathway may be an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in myositis.
PMCID: PMC3203318  PMID: 21769834
14.  Conditional over-expression of PITX1 causes skeletal muscle dystrophy in mice 
Biology open  2012;1(7):629-639.
Paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 1 (PITX1) was specifically up-regulated in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) by comparing the genome-wide mRNA expression profiles of 12 neuromuscular disorders. In addition, it is the only known direct transcriptional target of the double homeobox protein 4 (DUX4) of which aberrant expression has been shown to be the cause of FSHD. To test the hypothesis that up-regulation of PITX1 contributes to the skeletal muscle atrophy seen in patients with FSHD, we generated a tet-repressible muscle-specific Pitx1 transgenic mouse model in which expression of PITX1 in skeletal muscle can be controlled by oral administration of doxycycline. After PITX1 was over-expressed in the skeletal muscle for 5 weeks, the mice exhibited significant loss of body weight and muscle mass, decreased muscle strength, and reduction of muscle fiber diameters. Among the muscles examined, the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, quadricep, bicep, tricep and deltoid showed significant reduction of muscle mass, while the soleus, masseter and diaphragm muscles were not affected. The most prominent pathological change was the development of atrophic muscle fibers with mild necrosis and inflammatory infiltration. The affected myofibers stained heavily with NADH-TR with the strongest staining in angular-shaped atrophic fibers. Some of the atrophic fibers were also positive for embryonic myosin heavy chain using immunohistochemistry. Immunoblotting showed that the p53 was up-regulated in the muscles over-expressing PITX1. The results suggest that the up-regulation of PITX1 followed by activation of p53-dependent pathways may play a major role in the muscle atrophy developed in the mouse model.
PMCID: PMC3486706  PMID: 23125914
D4Z4; Grip strength; Rotarod; Tet-off; Cell death
15.  Role of non-immune mechanisms of muscle damage in idiopathic inflammatory myopathies 
Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIMs) comprise a group of autoimmune diseases that are characterized by symmetrical skeletal muscle weakness and muscle inflammation with no known cause. Like other autoimmune diseases, IIMs are treated with either glucocorticoids or immunosuppressive drugs. However, many patients with an IIM are frequently resistant to immunosuppressive treatments, and there is compelling evidence to indicate that not only adaptive immune but also several non-immune mechanisms play a role in the pathogenesis of these disorders. Here, we focus on some of the evidence related to pathologic mechanisms, such as the innate immune response, endoplasmic reticulum stress, non-immune consequences of MHC class I overexpression, metabolic disturbances, and hypoxia. These mechanisms may explain how IIM-related pathologic processes can continue even in the face of immunosuppressive therapies. These data indicate that therapeutic strategies in IIMs should be directed at both immune and non-immune mechanisms of muscle damage.
PMCID: PMC3446443  PMID: 22546362
16.  Metabolic remodeling agents show beneficial effects in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse model 
Skeletal Muscle  2012;2:16.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease involving a severe muscle wasting that is characterized by cycles of muscle degeneration/regeneration and culminates in early death in affected boys. Mitochondria are presumed to be involved in the regulation of myoblast proliferation/differentiation; enhancing mitochondrial activity with exercise mimetics (AMPK and PPAR-delta agonists) increases muscle function and inhibits muscle wasting in healthy mice. We therefore asked whether metabolic remodeling agents that increase mitochondrial activity would improve muscle function in mdx mice.
Twelve-week-old mdx mice were treated with two different metabolic remodeling agents (GW501516 and AICAR), separately or in combination, for 4 weeks. Extensive systematic behavioral, functional, histological, biochemical, and molecular tests were conducted to assess the drug(s)' effects.
We found a gain in body and muscle weight in all treated mice. Histologic examination showed a decrease in muscle inflammation and in the number of fibers with central nuclei and an increase in fibers with peripheral nuclei, with significantly fewer activated satellite cells and regenerating fibers. Together with an inhibition of FoXO1 signaling, these results indicated that the treatments reduced ongoing muscle damage.
The three treatments produced significant improvements in disease phenotype, including an increase in overall behavioral activity and significant gains in forelimb and hind limb strength. Our findings suggest that triggering mitochondrial activity with exercise mimetics improves muscle function in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice.
PMCID: PMC3482394  PMID: 22908954
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Muscle; AICAR; GW501516; Metabolism
17.  IL-6 signaling blockade increases inflammation but does not affect muscle function in the mdx mouse 
IL-6 is a pleiotropic cytokine that modulates inflammatory responses and plays critical roles in muscle maintenance and remodeling. In the mouse model (mdx) of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, IL-6 and muscle inflammation are elevated, which is believed to contribute to the chronic inflammation and failure of muscle regeneration in DMD. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effect of blocking IL-6 signaling on the muscle phenotype including muscle weakness and pathology in the mdx mouse.
A monoclonal antibody against the IL-6 receptor (IL-6r mAb) that blocks local and systemic IL-6 signaling was administered to mdx and BL-10 mice for 5 weeks and muscle function, histology, and inflammation were examined.
IL-6r mAb treatment increased mdx muscle inflammation including total inflammation score and ICAM-1 positive lumens in muscles. There was no significant improvement in muscle strength nor muscle pathology due to IL-6r mAb treatment in mdx mice.
These results showed that instead of reducing inflammation, IL-6 signaling blockade for 5 weeks caused an increase in muscle inflammation, with no significant change in indices related to muscle regeneration and muscle function. The results suggest a potential anti-inflammatory instead of the original hypothesized pro-inflammatory role of IL-6 signaling in the mdx mice.
PMCID: PMC3522537  PMID: 22716658
IL-6; Muscular dystrophy; Inflammation; Duchenne
18.  Conditional over-expression of PITX1 causes skeletal muscle dystrophy in mice 
Biology Open  2012;1(7):629-639.
Paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 1 (PITX1) was specifically up-regulated in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) by comparing the genome-wide mRNA expression profiles of 12 neuromuscular disorders. In addition, it is the only known direct transcriptional target of the double homeobox protein 4 (DUX4) of which aberrant expression has been shown to be the cause of FSHD. To test the hypothesis that up-regulation of PITX1 contributes to the skeletal muscle atrophy seen in patients with FSHD, we generated a tet-repressible muscle-specific Pitx1 transgenic mouse model in which expression of PITX1 in skeletal muscle can be controlled by oral administration of doxycycline. After PITX1 was over-expressed in the skeletal muscle for 5 weeks, the mice exhibited significant loss of body weight and muscle mass, decreased muscle strength, and reduction of muscle fiber diameters. Among the muscles examined, the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, quadricep, bicep, tricep and deltoid showed significant reduction of muscle mass, while the soleus, masseter and diaphragm muscles were not affected. The most prominent pathological change was the development of atrophic muscle fibers with mild necrosis and inflammatory infiltration. The affected myofibers stained heavily with NADH-TR with the strongest staining in angular-shaped atrophic fibers. Some of the atrophic fibers were also positive for embryonic myosin heavy chain using immunohistochemistry. Immunoblotting showed that the p53 was up-regulated in the muscles over-expressing PITX1. The results suggest that the up-regulation of PITX1 followed by activation of p53-dependent pathways may play a major role in the muscle atrophy developed in the mouse model.
PMCID: PMC3486706  PMID: 23125914
D4Z4; Grip strength; Rotarod; Tet-off; Cell death
19.  Glucocorticoid Efficacy in Asthma: Is Improved Tissue Remodeling Upstream of Anti-Inflammation 
Synthetic glucocorticoids, such as prednisone, are among the most widely prescribed drugs worldwide and are used to treat many acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. The current paradigm of glucocorticoid efficacy is that they are potent anti-inflammatory agents. Decreased inflammation in many disorders is thought to lead to decreased pathological tissue remodeling. However, this model has never been validated. In particular, improvements in inflammation have not been shown to improve the rate of lung function decline in asthma. Herein, we present an alternative paradigm, where GC efficacy is mediated through more successful tissue remodeling, with reduction in inflammation secondary to successful regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3324850  PMID: 19730133
Glucocorticoid; Asthma; Tissue Remodeling; Lung; Inflammation
20.  Glucocorticoid-Treated Mice Are an Inappropriate Positive Control for Long-Term Preclinical Studies in the mdx Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34204.
Dmdmdx (mdx) mice are used as a genetic and biochemical model of dystrophin deficiency. The long-term consequences of glucocorticoid (GC) treatment on dystrophin-deficient skeletal and heart muscle are not yet known. Here we used systematic phenotyping to assess the long-term consequences of GC treatment in mdx mice. Our investigation addressed not only the effects of GC on the disease phenotype but also the question of whether GCs can be used as a positive control for preclinical drug evaluations.
Methods and Findings
We performed nine pre-clinical efficacy trials (treated N = 129, untreated N = 106) of different durations in 9-to-50-week-old dystrophic mdx mice over a 3-year time period using standardized methods. In all these trials, we used either 1 mg/kg body weight of prednisone or 5 mg/kg body weight of prednisolone as positive controls to compare the efficacy of various test drugs. Data from untreated controls and GC-treated mice in the various trials have been pooled and analyzed to assess the effects of GCs on dystrophin-deficient skeletal and cardiac muscles of mdx mice. Our results indicate that continuous GC treatment results in early (e.g., at 50 days) improvements in normalized parameters such as grip strength, motor coordination and maximal in vitro force contractions on isolated EDL muscle, but these initial benefits are followed by a progressive loss of muscle strength after 100 days. We also found a significant increase in heart fibrosis that is reflected in a significant deterioration in cardiac systolic function after 100 days of treatment.
Continuous administration of prednisone to mdx mice initially improves skeletal muscle strength, but further therapy result in deterioration of muscle strength and cardiac function associated with enhanced cardiac fibrosis. These results suggest that GCs may not serve as an appropriate positive control for long-term mdx mouse preclinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3317932  PMID: 22509280
21.  Suppression of autophagy permits successful enzyme replacement therapy in a lysosomal storage disorder—murine Pompe disease 
Autophagy  2010;6(8):1078-1089.
Autophagy, an intracellular system for delivering portions of cytoplasm and damaged organelles to lysosomes for degradation/recycling, plays a role in many physiological processes and is disturbed in many diseases. We recently provided evidence for the role of autophagy in Pompe disease, a lysosomal storage disorder in which acid alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme involved in the breakdown of glycogen, is deficient or absent. Clinically the disease manifests as a cardiac and skeletal muscle myopathy. The current enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) clears lysosomal glycogen effectively from the heart but less so from skeletal muscle. In our Pompe model, the poor muscle response to therapy is associated with the presence of pools of autophagic debris. To clear the fibers of the autophagic debris, we have generated a Pompe model in which an autophagy gene, Atg7, is inactivated in muscle. Suppression of autophagy alone reduced the glycogen level by 50–60%. Following ERT, muscle glycogen was reduced to normal levels, an outcome not observed in Pompe mice with genetically intact autophagy. The suppression of autophagy, which has proven successful in the Pompe model, is a novel therapeutic approach that may be useful in other diseases with disturbed autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3039718  PMID: 20861693
Pompe disease; lysosomal glycogen storage; myopathy; Atg7; enzyme replacement therapy
22.  Membrane Sealant Poloxamer P188 Protects Against Isoproterenol Induced Cardiomyopathy in Dystrophin Deficient Mice 
Cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an increasing cause of death in patients. The absence of dystrophin leads to loss of membrane integrity, cell death and fibrosis in cardiac muscle. Treatment of cardiomyocyte membrane instability could help prevent cardiomyopathy.
Three month old female mdx mice were exposed to the β1 receptor agonist isoproterenol subcutaneously and treated with the non-ionic tri-block copolymer Poloxamer P188 (P188) (460 mg/kg/dose i.p. daily). Cardiac function was assessed using high frequency echocardiography. Tissue was evaluated with Evans Blue Dye (EBD) and picrosirius red staining.
BL10 control mice tolerated 30 mg/kg/day of isoproterenol for 4 weeks while death occurred in mdx mice at 30, 15, 10, 5 and 1 mg/kg/day within 24 hours. Mdx mice tolerated a low dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day. Isoproterenol exposed mdx mice showed significantly increased heart rates (p < 0.02) and cardiac fibrosis (p < 0.01) over 4 weeks compared to unexposed controls. P188 treatment of mdx mice significantly increased heart rate (median 593 vs. 667 bpm; p < 0.001) after 2 weeks and prevented a decrease in cardiac function in isoproterenol exposed mice (Shortening Fraction = 46 ± 6% vs. 35 ± 6%; p = 0.007) after 4 weeks. P188 treated mdx mice did not show significant differences in cardiac fibrosis, but demonstrated significantly increased EBD positive fibers.
This model suggests that chronic intermittent intraperitoneal P188 treatment can prevent isoproterenol induced cardiomyopathy in dystrophin deficient mdx mice.
PMCID: PMC3123649  PMID: 21575230
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; mdx; poloxamer; cardiomyopathy; isoproterenol
23.  Non-immune mechanisms of muscle damage in myositis: Role of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response and autophagy in the disease pathogenesis 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2009;21(6):581-587.
Purpose of review
Recent literature in inflammatory myopathies suggests that both immune (cell-mediated and humoral) and non-immune (endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and autophagy) mechanisms play a role in muscle fiber damage and dysfunction. This review describes these findings and discusses their relevance to disease pathogenesis and therapy.
Recent findings
Recent data highlights the role of ER stress response especially the roles of Hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and ER-anchored RING finger E3 ligase in the activation of unfolded protein response and the formation of vacuoles and inclusions in myopathies. Several studies investigated the link between inflammation and the beta amyloid associated muscle fiber degeneration and loss of muscle function. Likewise, the roles of ER stress and autophagy in skeletal muscle damage have been explored in multiple muscle diseases.
Current data indicate that the ER stress, NF-kB pathway and autophagy are active in the skeletal muscle of myositis patients, and the pro-inflammatory NF-kB pathway connects the immune and non-immune pathways of muscle damage. The relative contributions of each of these pathways to muscle fiber damage are presently unclear. Therefore further defining the role of these pathways in disease pathogenesis should help to design effective therapeutic agents for these diseases.
PMCID: PMC2877394  PMID: 19713850
endoplasmic reticulum; idiopathic myopathy; skeletal muscle; cell death; autophagy and NF-kB activation
24.  A Longitudinal, Integrated, Clinical, Histological and mRNA Profiling Study of Resistance Exercise in Myositis 
Molecular Medicine  2010;16(11-12):455-464.
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are orphan, chronic skeletal muscle disorders characterized by weakness, infiltrations by mononuclear inflammatory cells, and fibrosis. Until recently, patients were advised to refrain from physical activity because of fears of exacerbation of muscle inflammation. However, recent studies have shown that moderate exercise training in combination with immunosuppressive drugs can improve muscle performance. Despite the positive effects of exercise training, the molecular mechanisms underlying the exercise-associated clinical improvements remain poorly understood. The present study was designed to define, at the molecular level, the effects of resistance exercise training on muscle performance and disease progression in myositis patients. We evaluated changes in muscle strength, histology and genome-wide mRNA profiles to determine the beneficial effects of exercise and determine the possible molecular changes associated with improved muscle performance. A total of 8 myositis patients underwent a 7-wk resistance exercise training program that resulted in improved muscle strength and increased maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). Training also resulted in marked reductions in gene expression, reflecting reductions in proinflammatory and profibrotic gene networks, changes that were also accompanied by a reduction in tissue fibrosis. Consistent with the exercise-associated increase in VO2max, a subset of transcripts was associated with a shift toward oxidative metabolism. The changes in gene expression reported in the present study are in agreement with the performance improvements induced by exercise and suggest that resistance exercise training can induce a reduction in inflammation and fibrosis in skeletal muscle.
PMCID: PMC2972393  PMID: 20809047
25.  Characterization of Dysferlin Deficient SJL/J Mice to Assess Preclinical Drug Efficacy: Fasudil Exacerbates Muscle Disease Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12981.
The dysferlin deficient SJL/J mouse strain is commonly used to study dysferlin deficient myopathies. Therefore, we systematically evaluated behavior in relatively young (9–25 weeks) SJL/J mice and compared them to C57BL6 mice to determine which functional end points may be the most effective to use for preclinical studies in the SJL/J strain. SJL/J mice had reduced body weight, lower open field scores, higher creatine kinase levels, and less muscle force than did C57BL6 mice. Power calculations for expected effect sizes indicated that grip strength normalized to body weight and open field activity were the most sensitive indicators of functional status in SJL/J mice. Weight and open field scores of SJL/J mice deteriorated over the course of the study, indicating that progressive myopathy was ongoing even in relatively young (<6 months old) SJL/J mice. To further characterize SJL/J mice within the context of treatment, we assessed the effect of fasudil, a rho-kinase inhibitor, on disease phenotype. Fasudil was evaluated based on previous observations that Rho signaling may be overly activated as part of the inflammatory cascade in SJL/J mice. Fasudil treated SJL/J mice showed increased body weight, but decreased grip strength, horizontal activity, and soleus muscle force, compared to untreated SJL/J controls. Fasudil either improved or had no effect on these outcomes in C57BL6 mice. Fasudil also reduced the number of infiltrating macrophages/monocytes in SJL/J muscle tissue, but had no effect on muscle fiber degeneration/regeneration. These studies provide a basis for standardization of preclinical drug testing trials in the dysferlin deficient SJL/J mice, and identify measures of functional status that are potentially translatable to clinical trial outcomes. In addition, the data provide pharmacological evidence suggesting that activation of rho-kinase, at least in part, may represent a beneficial compensatory response in dysferlin deficient myopathies.
PMCID: PMC2945315  PMID: 20886045

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