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1.  Long-term treatment with naproxcinod significantly improves skeletal and cardiac disease phenotype in the mdx mouse model of dystrophy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(12):3239-3249.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients and the mouse model of DMD, mdx, dystrophin deficiency causes a decrease and mislocalization of muscle-specific neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOSμ), leading to functional impairments. Previous studies have shown that nitric oxide (NO) donation associated with anti-inflammatory action has beneficial effects in dystrophic mouse models. In this study, we have systematically investigated the effects of naproxcinod, an NO-donating naproxen derivative, on the skeletal and cardiac disease phenotype in mdx mice. Four-week-old mdx and C57BL/10 mice were treated with four different concentrations (0, 10, 21 and 41 mg/kg) of naproxcinod and 0.9 mg/kg of prednisolone in their food for 9 months. All mice were subjected to twice-weekly treadmill sessions, and functional and behavioral parameters were measured at 3, 6 and 9 months of treatment. In addition, we evaluated in vitro force contraction, optical imaging of inflammation, echocardiography and blood pressure (BP) at the 9-month endpoint prior to sacrifice. We found that naproxcinod treatment at 21 mg/kg resulted in significant improvement in hindlimb grip strength and a 30% decrease in inflammation in the fore- and hindlimbs of mdx mice. Furthermore, we found significant improvement in heart function, as evidenced by improved fraction shortening, ejection fraction and systolic BP. In addition, the long-term detrimental effects of prednisolone typically seen in mdx skeletal and heart function were not observed at the effective dose of naproxcinod. In conclusion, our results indicate that naproxcinod has significant potential as a safe therapeutic option for the treatment of muscular dystrophies.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddu033
PMCID: PMC4030778  PMID: 24463621
2.  Role of toll-like receptors in the pathogenesis of dystrophin-deficient skeletal and heart muscle 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(10):2604-2617.
Although the cause of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is known, the specific factors that initiate and perpetuate disease progression are not well understood. We hypothesized that leaky dystrophin-deficient skeletal muscle releases endogenous danger signals (TLR ligands), which bind to Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on muscle and immune cells and activate downstream processes that facilitate degeneration and regeneration in dystrophic skeletal muscle. Here, we demonstrate that dystrophin-deficient mouse muscle cells show increased expression of several cell-surface and endosomal TLRs. In vitro screening identified ssRNA as a relevant endogenous TLR7 ligand. TLR7 activation led to myd88-dependent production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in dystrophin-deficient muscle cells, and cause significant degeneration/regeneration in vivo in mdx mouse muscle. Also, knockout of the central TLR adaptor protein, myd88 in mdx mice significantly improved skeletal and cardiac muscle function. Likewise, proof-of-concept experiments showed that treating young mdx mice with a TLR7/9 antagonist significantly reduced skeletal muscle inflammation and increased muscle force, suggesting that blocking this pathway may have therapeutic potential for DMD.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt656
PMCID: PMC3990161  PMID: 24368419
3.  Muscular dystrophy in the mdx mouse is a severe myopathy compounded by hypotrophy, hypertrophy and hyperplasia 
Skeletal Muscle  2015;5:16.
Background
Preclinical testing of potential therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is conducted predominantly of the mdx mouse. But lack of a detailed quantitative description of the pathology of this animal limits our ability to evaluate the effectiveness of putative therapies or their relevance to DMD.
Methods
Accordingly, we have measured the main cellular components of muscle growth and regeneration over the period of postnatal growth and early pathology in mdx and wild-type (WT) mice; phalloidin binding is used as a measure of fibre size, myonuclear counts and BrdU labelling as records of myogenic activity.
Results
We confirm a two-phase postnatal growth pattern in WT muscle: first, increase in myonuclear number over weeks 1 to 3, then expansion of myonuclear domain. Mdx muscle growth lags behind that of WT prior to overt signs of pathology. Fibres are smaller, with fewer myonuclei and smaller myonuclear domains. Moreover, satellite cells are more readily detached from mdx than WT muscle fibres. At 3 weeks, mdx muscles enter a phase of florid myonecrosis, accompanied by concurrent regeneration of an intensity that results in complete replacement of pre-existing muscle over the succeeding 3 to 4 weeks.
Both WT and mdx muscles attain maximum size by 12 to 14 weeks, mdx muscle fibres being up to 50% larger than those of WT as they become increasingly branched. Mdx muscle fibres also become hypernucleated, containing twice as many myonuclei per sarcoplasmic volume, as those of WT, the excess corresponding to the number of centrally placed myonuclei.
Conclusions
The best-known consequence of lack of dystrophin that is common to DMD and the mdx mouse is the conspicuous necrosis and regeneration of muscle fibres. We present protocols for measuring this in terms both of loss of muscle nuclei previously labelled with BrdU and of the intensity of myonuclear labelling with BrdU administered during the regeneration period. Both measurements can be used to assess the efficacy of putative antinecrotic agents. We also show that lack of dystrophin is associated with a number of previously unsuspected abnormalities of muscle fibre structure and function that do not appear to be directly associated with myonecrosis.
doi:10.1186/s13395-015-0041-y
PMCID: PMC4434871  PMID: 25987977
Muscular dystrophy; Muscle regeneration; Hypertrophy; Hypotrophy; Hyperplasia
4.  The TREAT-NMD advisory committee for therapeutics (TACT): an innovative de-risking model to foster orphan drug development 
Despite multiple publications on potential therapies for neuromuscular diseases (NMD) in cell and animal models only a handful reach clinical trials. The ability to prioritise drug development according to objective criteria is particularly critical in rare diseases with large unmet needs and a limited numbers of patients who can be enrolled into clinical trials. TREAT-NMD Advisory Committee for Therapeutics (TACT) was established to provide independent and objective guidance on the preclinical and development pathway of potential therapies (whether novel or repurposed) for NMD.
We present our experience in the establishment and operation of the TACT. TACT provides a unique resource of recognized experts from multiple disciplines. The goal of each TACT review is to help the sponsor to position the candidate compound along a realistic and well-informed plan to clinical trials, and eventual registration. The reviews and subsequent recommendations are focused on generating meaningful and rigorous data that can enable clear go/no-go decisions and facilitate longer term funding or partnering opportunities. The review process thereby acts to comment on viability, de-risking the process of proceeding on a development programme.
To date TACT has held 10 review meeting and reviewed 29 program applications in several rare neuromuscular diseases: Of the 29 programs reviewed, 19 were from industry and 10 were from academia; 15 were for novel compounds and 14 were for repurposed drugs; 16 were small molecules and 13 were biologics; 14 were preclinical stage applications and 15 were clinical stage applications. 3 had received Orphan drug designation from European Medicines Agency and 3 from Food and Drug Administration. A number of recurrent themes emerged over the course of the reviews and we found that applicants frequently require advice and education on issues concerned with preclinical standard operating procedures, interactions with regulatory agencies, formulation, repurposing, clinical trial design, manufacturing and ethics.
Over the 5 years since its establishment TACT has amassed a body of experience that can be extrapolated to other groups of rare diseases to improve the community’s chances of successfully bringing new rare disease drugs to registration and ultimately to market.
doi:10.1186/s13023-015-0258-1
PMCID: PMC4417237  PMID: 25902795
Neuromuscular disease; Rare disease; Review; De-risking; Drug development
5.  Asynchronous remodeling is a driver of failed regeneration in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2014;207(1):139-158.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, asynchronous regeneration in microenvironments within muscle tissue results in development of fibrosis in lieu of global muscle recovery.
We sought to determine the mechanisms underlying failure of muscle regeneration that is observed in dystrophic muscle through hypothesis generation using muscle profiling data (human dystrophy and murine regeneration). We found that transforming growth factor β–centered networks strongly associated with pathological fibrosis and failed regeneration were also induced during normal regeneration but at distinct time points. We hypothesized that asynchronously regenerating microenvironments are an underlying driver of fibrosis and failed regeneration. We validated this hypothesis using an experimental model of focal asynchronous bouts of muscle regeneration in wild-type (WT) mice. A chronic inflammatory state and reduced mitochondrial oxidative capacity are observed in bouts separated by 4 d, whereas a chronic profibrotic state was seen in bouts separated by 10 d. Treatment of asynchronously remodeling WT muscle with either prednisone or VBP15 mitigated the molecular phenotype. Our asynchronous regeneration model for pathological fibrosis and muscle wasting in the muscular dystrophies is likely generalizable to tissue failure in chronic inflammatory states in other regenerative tissues.
doi:10.1083/jcb.201402079
PMCID: PMC4195829  PMID: 25313409
6.  Long-Term Efficacy of Systemic Multiexon Skipping Targeting Dystrophin Exons 45–55 With a Cocktail of Vivo-Morpholinos in Mdx52 Mice 
Antisense-mediated exon skipping, which can restore the reading frame, is a most promising therapeutic approach for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Remaining challenges include the limited applicability to patients and unclear function of truncated dystrophin proteins. Multiexon skipping targeting exons 45–55 at the mutation hotspot of the dystrophin gene could overcome both of these challenges. Previously, we described the feasibility of exons 45–55 skipping with a cocktail of Vivo-Morpholinos in vivo; however, the long-term efficacy and safety of Vivo-Morpholinos remains to be determined. In this study, we examined the efficacy and toxicity of exons 45–55 skipping by intravenous injections of 6 mg/kg 10-Vivo-Morpholino cocktail (0.6 mg/kg each vPMO) every 2 weeks for 18 weeks to dystrophic exon-52 knockout (mdx52) mice. Systemic skipping of the entire exons 45–55 region was induced, and the Western blot analysis exhibited the restoration of 5–27% of normal levels of dystrophin protein in skeletal muscles, accompanied by improvements in histopathology and muscle strength. No obvious immune response and renal and hepatic toxicity were detected at the end-point of the treatment. We demonstrate our new regimen with the 10-Vivo-Morpholino cocktail is effective and safe for long-term repeated systemic administration in the dystrophic mouse model.
doi:10.1038/mtna.2014.76
PMCID: PMC4345310  PMID: 25647512
antisense therapeutics; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; mdx52 mouse; multiexon skipping; Vivo-Morpholinos
7.  Pharmacologic Management of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Target Identification and Preclinical Trials 
ILAR Journal  2014;55(1):119-149.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked human disorder in which absence of the protein dystrophin causes degeneration of skeletal and cardiac muscle. For the sake of treatment development, over and above definitive genetic and cell-based therapies, there is considerable interest in drugs that target downstream disease mechanisms. Drug candidates have typically been chosen based on the nature of pathologic lesions and presumed underlying mechanisms and then tested in animal models. Mammalian dystrophinopathies have been characterized in mice (mdx mouse) and dogs (golden retriever muscular dystrophy [GRMD]). Despite promising results in the mdx mouse, some therapies have not shown efficacy in DMD. Although the GRMD model offers a higher hurdle for translation, dogs have primarily been used to test genetic and cellular therapies where there is greater risk. Failed translation of animal studies to DMD raises questions about the propriety of methods and models used to identify drug targets and test efficacy of pharmacologic intervention. The mdx mouse and GRMD dog are genetically homologous to DMD but not necessarily analogous. Subcellular species differences are undoubtedly magnified at the whole-body level in clinical trials. This problem is compounded by disparate cultures in clinical trials and preclinical studies, pointing to a need for greater rigor and transparency in animal experiments. Molecular assays such as mRNA arrays and genome-wide association studies allow identification of genetic drug targets more closely tied to disease pathogenesis. Genes in which polymorphisms have been directly linked to DMD disease progression, as with osteopontin, are particularly attractive targets.
doi:10.1093/ilar/ilu011
PMCID: PMC4158345  PMID: 24936034
animal models; drug development; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; golden retriever muscular dystrophy; genome wide association studies; mRNA arrays; mdx mouse; preclinical studies
8.  Non-Invasive MRI and Spectroscopy of mdx Mice Reveal Temporal Changes in Dystrophic Muscle Imaging and in Energy Deficits 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112477.
In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disruption of dystrophin protein expression results in repeated muscle injury and chronic inflammation. Magnetic resonance imaging shows promise as a surrogate outcome measure in both DMD and rehabilitation medicine that is capable of predicting clinical benefit years in advance of functional outcome measures. The mdx mouse reproduces the dystrophin deficiency that causes DMD and is routinely used for preclinical drug testing. There is a need to develop sensitive, non-invasive outcome measures in the mdx model that can be readily translatable to human clinical trials. Here we report the use of magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy techniques for the non-invasive monitoring of muscle damage in mdx mice. Using these techniques, we studied dystrophic mdx muscle in mice from 6 to 12 weeks of age, examining both the peak disease phase and natural recovery phase of the mdx disease course. T2 and fat-suppressed imaging revealed significant levels of tissue with elevated signal intensity in mdx hindlimb muscles at all ages; spectroscopy revealed a significant deficiency of energy metabolites in 6-week-old mdx mice. As the mdx mice progressed from the peak disease stage to the recovery stage of disease, each of these phenotypes was either eliminated or reduced, and the cross-sectional area of the mdx muscle was significantly increased when compared to that of wild-type mice. Histology indicates that hyper-intense MRI foci correspond to areas of dystrophic lesions containing inflammation as well as regenerating, degenerating and hypertrophied myofibers. Statistical sample size calculations provide several robust measures with the ability to detect intervention effects using small numbers of animals. These data establish a framework for further imaging or preclinical studies, and they support the development of MRI as a sensitive, non-invasive outcome measure for muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112477
PMCID: PMC4229202  PMID: 25390038
9.  Time Series Proteome Profiling To Study Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Response 
Journal of proteome research  2008;7(6):2435-2444.
Time series profiling is a powerful approach for obtaining information on protein expression dynamics and prevailing biochemical pathways. To date, such information could only be obtained at the mRNA level using mature and highly parallel technologies such as microarray gene expression profiling. The generation of time series data at the protein level has lagged due to the lack of robust and highly reproducible methodologies. Using a combination of SILAC strategy, SDS-PAGE and LC-MS/MS, we demonstrate successful monitoring of expression levels of the same set of proteins across different time points within the ER compartment of human primary fibroblast cells when exposed to ER stress inducers tunicamycin and thapsigargin. Data visualization was facilitated using GeneSpring GX analysis platform that was designed to process Affymetrix microarray data. This software also facilitated the generation of important parameters such as data normalization, calculation of statistical values to extract significant changes in protein expression, and the cross comparison of data sets.
doi:10.1021/pr700842m
PMCID: PMC4154506  PMID: 18435558
SILAC; Isotope Ratio; LC-MS/MS; Proteome profiling; Time series; ER stress; GRP78; Reticulocalbin
10.  Losartan Decreases Cardiac Muscle Fibrosis and Improves Cardiac Function in Dystrophin-Deficient Mdx Mice 
Recent studies showed that chronic administration of losartan, an angiotensin II type I receptor antagonist, improved skeletal muscle function in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice. In this study, C57BL/10ScSn-Dmdmdx/J female mice were either untreated or treated with losartan (n = 15) in the drinking water at a dose of 600 mg/L over a 6-month period. Cardiac function was assessed via in vivo high frequency echocardiography and skeletal muscle function was assessed using grip strength testing, Digiscan monitoring, Rotarod timing, and in vitro force testing. Fibrosis was assessed using picrosirius red staining and Image J analysis. Gene expression was evaluated using real-time polymerized chain reaction (RT-PCR). Percentage shortening fraction was significantly decreased in untreated (26.9% ± 3.5%) mice compared to losartan-treated (32.2% ± 4.2%; P < .01) mice. Systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced in losartan-treated mice (56 ± 6 vs 69 ± 7 mm Hg; P < .0005). Percentage cardiac fibrosis was significantly reduced in losartan-treated hearts (P < .05) along with diaphragm (P < .01), extensor digitorum longus (P < .05), and gastrocnemius (P < .05) muscles compared to untreated mdx mice. There were no significant differences in skeletal muscle function between treated and untreated groups. Chronic treatment with losartan decreases cardiac and skeletal muscle fibrosis and improves cardiac systolic function in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice.
doi:10.1177/1074248410381757
PMCID: PMC4147941  PMID: 21304057
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; dystrophin; mice; cardiomyopathy; angiotensin; echocardiography
11.  PRECLINICAL DRUG TRIALS IN THE mdx MOUSE: ASSESSMENT OF RELIABLE AND SENSITIVE OUTCOME MEASURES 
Muscle & nerve  2009;39(5):591-602.
The availability of animal models for Duchenne muscular dystrophy has led to extensive preclinical research on potential therapeutics. Few studies have focused on reliability and sensitivity of endpoints for mdx mouse drug trials. Therefore, we sought to compare a wide variety of reported and novel endpoint measures in exercised mdx and normal control mice at 10, 20, and 40 weeks of age. Statistical analysis as well as power calculations for expected effect sizes in mdx preclinical drug trials across different ages showed that body weight, normalized grip strength, horizontal activity, rest time, cardiac function measurements, blood pressure, total central/peripheral nuclei per fiber, and serum creatine kinase are the most effective measurements for detecting drug-induced changes. These data provide an experimental basis upon which standardization of preclinical drug testing can be developed.
doi:10.1002/mus.21211
PMCID: PMC4116326  PMID: 19260102
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; mdx mouse; preclinical trials; statistical analysis; phenotyping; muscle function tests; exercise; echocardiography
12.  Selective modulation through the glucocorticoid receptor ameliorates muscle pathology in mdx mice 
The Journal of pathology  2013;231(2):223-235.
The over-expression of NF-κB signalling in both muscle and immune cells contribute to the pathology in dystrophic muscle. The anti-inflammatory properties of glucocorticoids, mediated predominantly through monomeric glucocorticoid receptor inhibition of transcription factors such as NF-κB (transrepression), are postulated to be an important mechanism for their beneficial effects in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Chronic glucocorticoid therapy is associated with adverse effects on metabolism, growth, bone mineral density and the maintenance of muscle mass. These detrimental effects result from direct glucocorticoid receptor homodimer interactions with glucocorticoid response elements of the relevant genes. Compound A, a non-steroidal selective glucocorticoid receptor modulator, is capable of transrepression without transactivation. We confirm the in vitro NF-κB inhibitory activity of compound A in H-2Kb-tsA58 mdx myoblasts and myotubes, and demonstrate improvements in disease phenotype of dystrophin deficient mdx mice. Compound A treatment in mdx mice from 18 days of post-natal age to 8 weeks of age increased the absolute and normalized forelimb and hindlimb grip strength, attenuated cathepsin-B enzyme activity (a surrogate marker for inflammation) in forelimb and hindlimb muscles, decreased serum creatine kinase levels and reduced IL-6, CCL2, IFNγ, TNF and IL-12p70 cytokine levels in gastrocnemius (GA) muscles. Compared with compound A, treatment with prednisolone, a classical glucocorticoid, in both wild-type and mdx mice was associated with reduced body weight, reduced GA, tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus muscle mass and shorter tibial lengths. Prednisolone increased osteopontin (Spp1) gene expression and osteopontin protein levels in the GA muscles of mdx mice and had less favourable effects on the expression of Foxo1, Foxo3, Fbxo32, Trim63, Mstn and Igf1 in GA muscles, as well as hepatic Igf1 in wild-type mice. In conclusion, selective glucocorticoid receptor modulation by compound A represents a potential therapeutic strategy to improve dystrophic pathology.
doi:10.1002/path.4231
PMCID: PMC4104819  PMID: 23794417
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; glucocorticoids; glucocorticoid receptor; transrepression NF-κB; compound A
13.  VBP15: Preclinical characterization of a novel anti-inflammatory delta 9,11 steroid 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2013;21(8):2241-2249.
Δ9,11 modifications of glucocorticoids (21-aminosteroids) have been developed as drugs for protection against cell damage (lipid peroxidation; lazaroids) and inhibition of neovascularization (anecortave). Part of the rationale for developing these compounds has been the loss of glucocorticoid receptor binding due to the Δ9,11 modification, thus avoiding many immunosuppressive activities and deleterious side effect profiles associated with binding to glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors. We recently demonstrated that anecortave acetate and its 21-hydroxy analog (VBP1) do, in fact, show glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor binding activities, with potent translocation of the glucocorticoid receptor to the cell nucleus. We concluded that Δ9,11 steroids showed novel anti-inflammatory properties, retaining NF-κB inhibition, but losing deleterious glucocorticoid side effect profiles. Evidence for this was developed in pre-clinical trials of chronic muscle inflammation. Here, we describe a drug development program aimed at optimizing the Δ9,11 chemistry. Twenty Δ9,11 derivatives were tested in in vitro screens for NF-κB inhibition and GR translocation to the nucleus, and low cell toxicity. VBP15 was selected as the lead compound due to potent NF-κB inhibition and GR translocation similar to prednisone and dexamethasone, lack of transactivation properties, and good bioavailability. Phamacokinetics were similar to traditional glucocorticoid drugs with terminal half-life of 0.35 h (mice), 0.58 h (rats), 5.42 h (dogs), and bioavailability of 74.5% (mice), and 53.2% (dogs). Metabolic stability showed ≥80% remaining at 1 h of VBP6 and VBP15 in human, dog, and monkey liver microsomes. Solubility, permeability and plasma protein binding were within acceptable limits. VBP15 moderately induced CYP3A4 across the three human hepatocyte donors (24–42%), similar to other steroids. VBP15 is currently under development for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2013.02.009
PMCID: PMC4088988  PMID: 23498916
Glucocorticoids; VBP15; Steroids; Anti-inflammatories; Neuromuscular disease
14.  Activation of the Ubiquitin Proteasome Pathway in a Mouse Model of Inflammatory Myopathy 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(12):3248-3258.
Objective
Myositis is characterized by severe muscle weakness. We and others have previously shown that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of myositis. The present study was undertaken to identify perturbed pathways and assess their contribution to muscle disease in a mouse myositis model.
Methods
Stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) was used to identify alterations in the skeletal muscle proteome of myositic mice in vivo. Differentially altered protein levels identified in the initial comparisons were validated using a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry spike-in strategy and further confirmed by immunoblotting. In addition, we evaluated the effect of a proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib, on the disease phenotype, using well-standardized functional, histologic, and biochemical assessments.
Results
With the SILAC technique we identified significant alterations in levels of proteins belonging to the ER stress response, ubiquitin proteasome pathway (UPP), oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis, cytoskeleton, and muscle contractile apparatus categories. We validated the myositis-related changes in the UPP and demonstrated a significant increase in the ubiquitination of muscle proteins as well as a specific increase in ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 (UCHL-1) in myositis, but not in muscle affected by other dystrophies or normal muscle. Inhibition of the UPP with bortezomib significantly improved muscle function and also significantly reduced tumor necrosis factor α expression in the skeletal muscle of mice with myositis.
Conclusion
Our findings indicate that ER stress activates downstream UPPs and contributes to muscle degeneration and that UCHL-1 is a potential biomarker for disease progression. UPP inhibition offers a potential therapeutic strategy for myositis.
doi:10.1002/art.38180
PMCID: PMC4080828  PMID: 24022788
15.  The effects of MyD88 deficiency on disease phenotype in dysferlin-deficient A/J mice: role of endogenous TLR ligands 
The Journal of pathology  2013;231(2):199-209.
An absence of dysferlin leads to activation of innate immune receptors such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and skeletal muscle inflammation. Myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88) is a key mediator of TLR-dependent innate immune signalling. We hypothesized that endogenous TLR ligands released from the leaking dysferlin-deficient muscle fibres engage TLRs on muscle and immune cells and contribute to disease progression. To test this hypothesis, we generated and characterized dysferlin and MyD88 double-deficient mice. Double-deficient mice exhibited improved body weight, grip strength, and maximum muscle contractile force at 6–8 months of age when compared to MyD88-sufficient, dysferlin-deficient A/J mice. Double-deficient mice also showed a decrease in total fibre number, which contributed to the observed increase in the number of central nuclei/fibres. These results indicate that there was less regeneration in the double-deficient mice. We next tested the hypothesis that endogenous ligands, such as single-stranded ribonucleic acids (ssRNAs), released from damaged muscle cells bind to TLR-7/8 and perpetuate the disease progression. We found that injection of ssRNA into the skeletal muscle of pre-symptomatic mice (2 months old) resulted in a significant increase in degenerative fibres, inflammation, and regenerating fibres in A/J mice. In contrast, characteristic histological features were significantly decreased in double-deficient mice. These data point to a clear role for the TLR pathway in the pathogenesis of dysferlin deficiency and suggest that TLR-7/8 antagonists may have therapeutic value in this disease.
doi:10.1002/path.4207
PMCID: PMC4071457  PMID: 23857504
Toll-like receptor; dysferlin; single-stranded RNA; regeneration; degeneration; inflammation; osteopontin
16.  Elevation of proinflammatory cytokines in patients with Aicardi-Goutières syndrome 
Neurology  2013;80(11):997-1002.
Objective:
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.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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.
Conclusion:
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.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182872694
PMCID: PMC3653200  PMID: 23408864
17.  The molecular basis of skeletal muscle weakness in a mouse model of inflammatory myopathy 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3750-3759.
OBJECTIVE
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.
METHODS
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.
RESULTS
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.
CONCLUSION
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.
doi:10.1002/art.34625
PMCID: PMC3485437  PMID: 22806328
18.  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.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201302621
PMCID: PMC3799580  PMID: 24014378
anti-inflammatory; dystrophy; mdx; membrane injury; muscle
19.  The Proton Pump Inhibitor Lansoprazole Improves the Skeletal Phenotype in Dystrophin Deficient mdx Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e66617.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066617
PMCID: PMC3699610  PMID: 23843959
20.  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.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065970
PMCID: PMC3681851  PMID: 23785461
21.  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.
doi:10.1186/2044-5040-3-13
PMCID: PMC3681571  PMID: 23758833
Adaptive immune; Autophagy; Cytokines; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Innate immune; Myositis; Skeletal muscle; TLRs
22.  Omigapil Treatment Decreases Fibrosis and Improves Respiratory Rate in dy2J Mouse Model of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65468.
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065468
PMCID: PMC3675144  PMID: 23762378
23.  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.
doi:10.1007/s11926-012-0247-5
PMCID: PMC3587844  PMID: 22410828
Skeletal muscle; Endoplasmic reticulum; Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Mitochondria; Myositis; ER stress; Autophagy; Necrosis; Apoptosis; Muscle disease
24.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063871
PMCID: PMC3646769  PMID: 23667681
25.  Novel Approaches to Corticosteroid Treatment in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
doi:10.1016/j.pmr.2012.08.003
PMCID: PMC3606917  PMID: 23137739
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Corticosteroids; Glucocorticoids; Dissociative steroids

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