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1.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2011.04.012
PMCID: PMC3227750  PMID: 21737275
DMD; mdx; methods; standard operating procedures; pre-clinical experiments
2.  Pre-clinical drug tests in the mdx mouse as a model of dystrophinopathies: an overview 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(1):40-47.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a lethal X-linked muscle disease affecting 1/3500 live male birth. It results from defects in the subsarcolemmal protein dystrophin, a component of the dystrophinglycoprotein complex (DGC) which links the intracellular cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix. The absence of dystrophin leads to muscle membrane fragility, muscle necrosis and gradual replacement of skeletal muscle by fat and connective tissue, through a complex and still unclear cascade of interconnecting events. No cure is currently available, with glucocorticoids being the sole drugs in clinical use in spite of their remarkable side effects. A great effort is devoted at performing pre-clinical tests on the mdx mouse, the mostly used homologous animal model for DMD, with the final aim to identify drugs safer than steroids and able to target the pathogenic mechanisms so to delay pathology progression. This review updates the efforts on this topic, focusing on the open issues about the animal model and highlighting the classes of pharmaceuticals that are more promising as diseasemodifiers, while awaiting for more corrective therapies. Although caution is necessary in data transfer from mdx model to DMD patients, the implementation of standard operating procedures and the growing understanding of the pathology may allow a more accurate evaluation of therapeutics, alone or in combination, in pre-clinical settings. A continuous cross-talk with clinicians and patients associations are also crucial points for proper translation of data from mouse to bedside.
PMCID: PMC3440805  PMID: 22655516
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; mdx mouse model; pharmaceuticals; pre-clinical studies; translational research
3.  Searching for novel anti-myotonic agents: Pharmacophore requirement for use-dependent block of skeletal muscle sodium channels by N-benzylated cyclic derivatives of tocainide 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(1-2):56-65.
Drug screening on sodium currents of native myofibers by means of voltage-clamp recordings is predictive of pre-clinical anti-myotonic activity in vivo and ex vivo. By this approach we identified the N-benzylated beta-proline derivative of tocainide (To10) as the most potent use-dependent blocker of Nav1.4 so far. We tested novel analogs with modifications on the pharmacophore groups of To10. The substitution of the proline cycle with less planar piperidine or piperazine rings disclosed the importance of a two carbon atom distance and/or an additional nitrogen atom for potency. Structural changes on the xylididic group corroborated the role of a proper electronic cloud for hydrophobic interactions with the binding site. The N-benzylated moiety lead to a stereoselective behavior only in the rigid alpha-proline analog To11 vs. To10 and N-benzylated tocainide (To12). The results confirm the strict structural requirements of Nav1.4 blockers and allow to refine the drug design toward novel anti-myotonic drugs.
doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2011.07.001
PMCID: PMC3314985  PMID: 21802953
Voltage-gated Na+ channel; Myotonic syndromes; Tocainide; Pharmacophore groups
4.  Enalapril treatment discloses an early role of angiotensin II in inflammation- and oxidative stress-related muscle damage in dystrophic mdx mice☆ 
Pharmacological Research  2011;64(5):482-492.
Graphical abstract
Highlights
► An early treatment with enalapril was performed in exercised mdx mice. ► In vivo, enalapril increased mouse fore limb strength dose-dependently. ► Ex vivo, enalapril reduced muscular markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. ► Results corroborate an early role of angiotensin II in muscular dystrophy. ► Pre-clinical evidences of therapeutic interest of ACE inhibitors for therapy of DMD.
Inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE) are clinically used to control cardiomyopathy in patients of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Various evidences suggest potential usefulness of long-term treatment with ACE inhibitors to reduce advanced fibrosis of dystrophic muscle in the mdx mouse model. However, angiotensin II is known to exert pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative actions that might contribute to early events of dystrophic muscle degeneration. The present study has been aimed at evaluating the effects of an early treatment with enalapril on the pathology signs of exercised mdx mouse model. The effects of 1 and 5 mg/kg enalapril i.p. for 4–8 weeks have been compared with those of 1 mg/kg α-methyl-prednisolone (PDN), as positive control. Enalapril caused a dose-dependent increase in fore limb strength, the highest dose leading to a recovery score similar to that observed with PDN. A dose-dependent reduction of superoxide anion production was observed by dihydroethidium staining in tibialis anterior muscle of enalapril-treated mice, approaching the effect observed with PND. In parallel, a significant reduction of the activated form of the pro-inflammatory Nuclear Factor-kB has been observed in gastrocnemious muscle. Histologically, 5 mg/kg enalapril reduced the area of muscle necrosis in both gastrocnemious muscle and diaphragm, without significant effect on non-muscle area. In parallel no significant changes have been observed in both muscle TGF-β1 and myonuclei positive to phosphorylated Smad2/3. Myofiber functional indices were also monitored by microelectrodes recordings. A dose-dependent recovery of macroscopic chloride conductance has been observed upon enalapril treatment in EDL muscle, with minor effects being exerted in diaphragm. However a modest effect, if any, was found on mechanical threshold, a functional index of calcium homeostasis. No recovery was observed in creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. Finally the results suggest the ability of enalapril to blunt angiotensin-II dependent activation of pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant pathways which may be earlier events with respect to the pro-fibrotic ones, and may in part account for both functional impairment and muscle necrosis. The PDN-like profile may corroborate the combined use of the two classes of drugs in DMD patients so to potentiate the beneficial effects at skeletal muscle level, while reducing both spontaneous and PDN-aggravated cardiomyopathy.
doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2011.06.002
PMCID: PMC3184479  PMID: 21689754
DMD, Duchenne muscular dystrophy; ACE, angiotensin converting enzyme; RAS, renin-angiotensin system; Ang II, angiotensin II; PDN, α-methylprednisolone; NF-kB, nuclear factor-kB; TGF-β1, trasforming growth factor β1; EDL, extensor digitorum longus; CK, creatine kinase; LDH, lactate dehydrogenase; gCl, sarcolemmal chloride conductance; gK, sarcolemmal potassium conductance; MT, mechanical threshold; Muscular dystrophy; Pre-clinical pharmacological tests; Angiotensin-II; Inflammation; Oxidative stress
5.  Towards developing standard operating procedures for pre-clinical testing in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Neurobiology of disease  2008;31(1):1-19.
This review discusses various issues to consider when developing standard operating procedures for pre-clinical studies in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The review describes and evaluates a wide range of techniques used to measure parameters of muscle pathology in mdx mice and identifies some basic techniques that might comprise standardised approaches for evaluation. While the central aim is to provide a basis for the development of standardised procedures to evaluate efficacy of a drug or a therapeutic strategy, a further aim is to gain insight into pathophysiological mechanisms in order to identify other therapeutic targets. The desired outcome is to enable easier and more rigorous comparison of pre-clinical data from different laboratories around the world, in order to accelerate identification of the best pre-clinical therapies in the mdx mouse that will fast-track translation into effective clinical treatments for DMD.
doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2008.03.008
PMCID: PMC2518169  PMID: 18499465
mdx mouse; muscular dystrophy; standard operating procedures; biological variation; muscle function; pre-clinical trials
6.  Mechanism of Block of Single Protopores of the Torpedo Chloride Channel Clc-0 by 2-(p-Chlorophenoxybutyric) Acid (Cpb) 
We investigated in detail the mechanism of inhibition by the S(−) enantiomer of 2-(p-chlorophenoxy)butyric acid (CPB) of the Torpedo Cl− channel, ClC-0. The substance has been previously shown to inhibit the homologous skeletal muscle channel, CLC-1. ClC-0 is a homodimer with probably two independently gated protopores that are conductive only if an additional common gate is open. As a simplification, we used a mutant of ClC-0 (C212S) that has the common gate “locked open” (Lin, Y.W., C.W. Lin, and T.Y. Chen. 1999. J. Gen. Physiol. 114:1–12). CPB inhibits C212S currents only when applied to the cytoplasmic side, and single-channel recordings at voltages (V) between −120 and −80 mV demonstrate that it acts independently on individual protopores by introducing a long-lived nonconductive state with no effect on the conductance and little effect on the lifetime of the open state. Steady-state macroscopic currents at −140 mV are half-inhibited by ∼0.5 mM CPB, but the inhibition decreases with V and vanishes for V ≥ 40 mV. Relaxations of CPB inhibition after voltage steps are seen in the current responses as an additional exponential component that is much slower than the gating of drug-free protopores. For V ≤ −40 mV, where a significant inhibition is observable for the CPB concentrations used in this study (≤10 mM), the concentration dependence of its onset kinetics is consistent with CPB binding according to a bimolecular reaction. At all voltages, only the openings of drug-free protopores appear to contribute significantly to the current observed at any time. Lowering internal Cl− hastens significantly the apparent “on” rate, suggesting that internal Cl− antagonizes CPB binding to closed pores. Vice versa, lowering external Cl− reduces the apparent rate of CPB dissociation from open pores. We studied also the point mutant K519E (in the context of the C212S mutant) that has altered conduction properties and slower single protopore gating kinetics. In experiments with CPB, the mutant exhibited drastically slowed recovery from CPB inhibition. In addition, in contrast to WT (i.e., C212S), the mutant K519E showed also a significant CPB inhibition at positive voltages (≥60 mV) with an IC50 of ∼30–40 mM. Altogether, these findings support a model for the mechanism of CPB inhibition in which the drug competes with Cl− for binding to a site of the pore where it blocks permeation. CPB binds preferentially to closed channels, and thereby also strongly alters the gating of the single protopore. Since the affinity of CPB for open WT pores is extremely low, we cannot decide in this case if it acts also as an open pore blocker. However, the experiments with the mutant K519E strongly support this interpretation. CPB block may become a useful tool to study the pore of ClC channels. As a first application, our results provide additional evidence for a double-barreled structure of ClC-0 and ClC-1.
PMCID: PMC2233749  PMID: 11432801
ClC; slow gate; double barreled; anion channel; clofibric acid
7.  Paracrine Effects of IGF-1 Overexpression on the Functional Decline Due to Skeletal Muscle Disuse: Molecular and Functional Evaluation in Hindlimb Unloaded MLC/mIgf-1 Transgenic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65167.
Slow-twitch muscles, devoted to postural maintenance, experience atrophy and weakness during muscle disuse due to bed-rest, aging or spaceflight. These conditions impair motion activities and can have survival implications. Human and animal studies demonstrate the anabolic role of IGF-1 on skeletal muscle suggesting its interest as a muscle disuse countermeasure. Thus, we tested the role of IGF-1 overexpression on skeletal muscle alteration due to hindlimb unloading (HU) by using MLC/mIgf-1 transgenic mice expressing IGF-1 under the transcriptional control of MLC promoter, selectively activated in skeletal muscle. HU produced atrophy in soleus muscle, in terms of muscle weight and fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) reduction, and up-regulation of atrophy gene MuRF1. In parallel, the disuse-induced slow-to-fast fiber transition was confirmed by an increase of the fast-type of the Myosin Heavy Chain (MHC), a decrease of PGC-1α expression and an increase of histone deacetylase-5 (HDAC5). Consistently, functional parameters such as the resting chloride conductance (gCl) together with ClC-1 chloride channel expression were increased and the contractile parameters were modified in soleus muscle of HU mice. Surprisingly, IGF-1 overexpression in HU mice was unable to counteract the loss of muscle weight and the decrease of fiber CSA. However, the expression of MuRF1 was recovered, suggesting early effects on muscle atrophy. Although the expression of PGC-1α and MHC were not improved in IGF-1-HU mice, the expression of HDAC5 was recovered. Importantly, the HU-induced increase of gCl was fully contrasted in IGF-1 transgenic mice, as well as the changes in contractile parameters. These results indicate that, even if local expression does not seem to attenuate HU-induced atrophy and slow-to-fast phenotype transition, it exerts early molecular effects on gene expression which can counteract the HU-induced modification of electrical and contractile properties. MuRF1 and HDAC5 can be attractive therapeutic targets for pharmacological countermeasures and then deserve further investigations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065167
PMCID: PMC3670938  PMID: 23755187
8.  Daily Treatment with SMTC1100, a Novel Small Molecule Utrophin Upregulator, Dramatically Reduces the Dystrophic Symptoms in the mdx Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19189.
Background
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal, progressive muscle wasting disease caused by a loss of sarcolemmal bound dystrophin, which results in the death of the muscle fibers leading to the gradual depletion of skeletal muscle. There is significant evidence demonstrating that increasing levels of the dystrophin-related protein, utrophin, in mouse models results in sarcolemmal bound utrophin and prevents the muscular dystrophy pathology. The aim of this work was to develop a small molecule which increases the levels of utrophin in muscle and thus has therapeutic potential.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We describe the in vivo activity of SMT C1100; the first orally bioavailable small molecule utrophin upregulator. Once-a-day daily-dosing with SMT C1100 reduces a number of the pathological effects of dystrophin deficiency. Treatment results in reduced pathology, better muscle physiology leading to an increase in overall strength, and an ability to resist fatigue after forced exercise; a surrogate for the six minute walk test currently recommended as the pivotal outcome measure in human trials for DMD.
Conclusions and Significance
This study demonstrates proof-of-principle for the use of in vitro screening methods in allowing identification of pharmacological agents for utrophin transcriptional upregulation. The best compound identified, SMT C1100, demonstrated significant disease modifying effects in DMD models. Our data warrant the full evaluation of this compound in clinical trials in DMD patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019189
PMCID: PMC3089598  PMID: 21573153

Results 1-8 (8)