Pathological evaluation of rats carrying in-frame mutations in the dystrophin gene: A new model of Becker muscular dystrophy.
ABSTRACT: Dystrophin, encoded by the DMD gene on the X chromosome, stabilizes the sarcolemma by linking the actin cytoskeleton with the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC). In-frame mutations in DMD cause a milder form of X-linked muscular dystrophy, called Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), characterized by the reduced expression of truncated dystrophin. So far, no animal model with in-frame mutations in Dmd has been established. As a result, the effect of in-frame mutations on the dystrophin expression profile and disease progression of BMD remains unclear. In this study, we established a novel rat model carrying in-frame Dmd gene mutations (IF rats) and evaluated the pathology. We found that IF rats exhibit reduced expression of truncated dystrophin in a proteasome-independent manner. This abnormal dystrophin expression caused dystrophic changes in muscle tissues, but did not lead to functional deficiency. We also found that the expression of additional dystrophin named dpX, which forms the DGC in the sarcolemma, is associated with the appearance of truncated dystrophin. In conclusion, the outcomes of this study contribute to the further understanding of BMD pathology and help elucidate the efficiency of dystrophin recovery treatments in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a more severe form of X-linked muscular dystrophy.
Project description:Loss of dystrophin protein due to mutations in the DMD gene causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dystrophin loss also leads to the loss of the dystrophin glycoprotein complex (DGC) from the sarcolemma which contributes to the dystrophic phenotype. Tyrosine phosphorylation of dystroglycan has been identified as a possible signal to promote the proteasomal degradation of the DGC. In order to test the role of tyrosine phosphorylation of dystroglycan in the aetiology of DMD, we generated a knock-in mouse with a phenylalanine substitution at a key tyrosine phosphorylation site in dystroglycan, Y890. Dystroglycan knock-in mice (Dag1(Y890F/Y890F)) had no overt phenotype. In order to examine the consequence of blocking dystroglycan phosphorylation on the aetiology of dystrophin-deficient muscular dystrophy, the Y890F mice were crossed with mdx mice an established model of muscular dystrophy. Dag1(Y890F/Y890F)/mdx mice showed a significant improvement in several parameters of muscle pathophysiology associated with muscular dystrophy, including a reduction in centrally nucleated fibres, less Evans blue dye infiltration and lower serum creatine kinase levels. With the exception of dystrophin, other DGC components were restored to the sarcolemma including ?-sarcoglycan, ?-/?-dystroglycan and sarcospan. Furthermore, Dag1(Y890F/Y890F)/mdx showed a significant resistance to muscle damage and force loss following repeated eccentric contractions when compared with mdx mice. While the Y890F substitution may prevent dystroglycan from proteasomal degradation, an increase in sarcolemmal plectin appeared to confer protection on Dag1(Y890F/Y890F)/mdx mouse muscle. This new model confirms dystroglycan phosphorylation as an important pathway in the aetiology of DMD and provides novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
Project description:Dystrophin plays a crucial role in maintaining sarcolemma stability during muscle contractions, and mutations that prevent the expression of a functional protein cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Antisense oligonucleotide-mediated manipulation of pre-messenger RNA splicing to bypass Duchenne-causing mutations and restore functional dystrophin expression has entered the clinic for the most common DMD mutations. The rationale of "exon skipping" is based upon genotype-phenotype correlations observed in Becker muscular dystrophy, a milder allelic disorder generally characterized by in-frame deletions and internally truncated but semi-functional dystrophin isoforms. However, there is a lack of genotype-phenotype correlations downstream of DMD exon 55, as deletions in this region are rare and most single exon deletions would disrupt the reading frame. Consequently, the amenability of mutations in this region of the DMD gene to exon skipping strategies remains unknown. Here, we induced "Becker muscular dystrophy-like" in-frame dystrophin isoforms in vivo by intraperitoneal injection of peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers targeting selected exons. The dystrophin isoform encoded by the transcript lacking exons 56+57 appears to be more functional than that encoded by the 58+59-deleted transcript, as determined by higher dystrophin expression, stabilized ?-dystroglycan, and less severe dystrophic pathology, indicating some potential for the strategy to address Duchenne-causing mutations affecting these exons.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most prevalent lethal genetic disorder in children, is caused by mutations in the 2.2-MB dystrophin gene. Absence of dystrophin and the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC) from the sarcolemma leads to severe muscle wasting and eventual respiratory and/or cardiac failure. There is presently no effective therapy for DMD. Several lines of evidence have suggested that methods to increase expression of utrophin, a dystrophin paralog, show promise as a treatment for DMD. Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors are a promising vehicle for gene transfer to muscle, but microutrophin transgenes small enough to be carried by AAV have not been tested for function. In this study, we intravenously administered recombinant AAV (rAAV2/6) harboring a murine codon-optimized microutrophin (DeltaR4-R21/DeltaCT) transgene to adult dystrophin(-/-)/utrophin(-/-) (mdx:utrn(-/-)) double-knockout mice. Five-month-old mice demonstrated localization of microutrophin to the sarcolemma in all the muscles tested. These muscles displayed restoration of the DGC, increased myofiber size, and a considerable improvement in physiological performance when compared with untreated mdx:utrn(-/-) mice. Overall, microutrophin delivery alleviated most of the pathophysiological abnormalities associated with muscular dystrophy in the mdx:utrn(-/-) mouse model. This approach may hold promise as a treatment option for DMD because it avoids the potential immune responses that are associated with the delivery of exogenous dystrophin.
Project description:Clinical trials using strategies aimed at inducing dystrophin expression in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are underway or at advanced planning stage, including splice switching antisense oligonucleotides (AON), drugs to induce read-through of nonsense mutations and viral mediated gene therapy. In all these strategies, different dystrophin proteins, often internally deleted, are produced, similar to those found in patients with the milder DMD allelic variant, Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). The primary biological endpoint of these trials is to induce functional dystrophin expression. A reliable and reproducible method for quantification of dystrophin protein expression at the sarcolemma is crucial to monitor the biochemical outcome of such treatments. We developed a new high throughput semi quantitative fluorescent immunofluorescence method for quantifying dystrophin expression in transverse sections of skeletal muscle. This technique is completely operator independent as it based on an automated scanning system and an image processing script developed with Definiens software. We applied this new acquisition-analysis method to quantify dystrophin and sarcolemma-related proteins using paediatric control muscles from cases without a neuromuscular disorder as well as DMD and BMD samples. The image analysis script was instructed to recognize myofibres immunostained for spectrin or laminin while dystrophin was quantified in each identified myofibre (from 2,000 to over 20,000 fibres, depending on the size of the biopsy). We were able to simultaneously extrapolate relevant parameters such as mean sarcolemmal dystrophin, mean spectrin and laminin intensity, fibre area and diameter. In this way we assessed dystrophin production in each muscle fibre in samples of DMD, BMD and controls. This new method allows the unbiased quantification of dystrophin in every myofibre within a transverse muscle section and will be of help for translational research projects as a biological outcome in clinical trials in DMD and BMD.
Project description:Mutations in the dystrophin gene cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy and result in the loss of dystrophin and the entire dystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC) from the sarcolemma. We show that sarcospan (SSPN), a unique tetraspanin-like component of the DGC, ameliorates muscular dystrophy in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice. SSPN stabilizes the sarcolemma by increasing levels of the utrophin-glycoprotein complex (UGC) at the extrasynaptic membrane to compensate for the loss of dystrophin. Utrophin is normally restricted to the neuromuscular junction, where it replaces dystrophin to form a functionally analogous complex. SSPN directly interacts with the UGC and functions to stabilize utrophin protein without increasing utrophin transcription. These findings reveal the importance of protein stability in the prevention of muscular dystrophy and may impact the future design of therapeutics for muscular dystrophies.
Project description:Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) is a progressive X-linked muscle wasting disease for which there is no treatment. Like Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), BMD is caused by mutations in the gene encoding dystrophin, a structural cytoskeletal protein that also targets other proteins to the muscle sarcolemma. Among these is neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS?), which requires certain spectrin-like repeats in dystrophin's rod domain and the adaptor protein ?-syntrophin to be targeted to the sarcolemma. When healthy skeletal muscle is subjected to exercise, sarcolemmal nNOS?-derived NO attenuates local ?-adrenergic vasoconstriction, thereby optimizing perfusion of muscle. We found previously that this protective mechanism is defective-causing functional muscle ischemia-in dystrophin-deficient muscles of the mdx mouse (a model of DMD) and of children with DMD, in whom nNOS? is mislocalized to the cytosol instead of the sarcolemma. We report that this protective mechanism also is defective in men with BMD in whom the most common dystrophin mutations disrupt sarcolemmal targeting of nNOS?. In these men, the vasoconstrictor response, measured as a decrease in muscle oxygenation, to reflex sympathetic activation is not appropriately attenuated during exercise of the dystrophic muscles. In a randomized placebo-controlled crossover trial, we show that functional muscle ischemia is alleviated and normal blood flow regulation is fully restored in the muscles of men with BMD by boosting NO-cGMP (guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate) signaling with a single dose of the drug tadalafil, a phosphodiesterase 5A inhibitor. These results further support an essential role for sarcolemmal nNOS? in the normal modulation of sympathetic vasoconstriction in exercising human skeletal muscle and implicate the NO-cGMP pathway as a putative new target for treating BMD.
Project description:Sarcoglycans are a group of single-pass transmembrane glycoproteins. In striated muscle, sarcoglycans interact with dystrophin and other dystrophin-associated proteins (DAPs) to form the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex (DGC). The DGC protects the sarcolemma from contraction-induced injury. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by dystrophin gene mutations. In the absence of dystrophin, the DGC is disassembled from the sarcolemma. This initiates a chain reaction of muscle degeneration, necrosis, inflammation and fibrosis. In contrast to human patients, dystrophin-null mdx mice are only mildly affected. Enhanced muscle regeneration and the up-regulation of utrophin and integrin are thought to protect mdx muscle. Interestingly, trace amounts of sarcoglycans and other DAPs can be detected at the mdx sarcolemma. It is currently unclear whether sub-physiological sarcoglycan expression also contributes to the mild phenotype in mdx mice. To answer this question, we generated delta-sarcoglycan/dystrophin double knockout mice (delta-Dko) in which residual sarcoglycans were completely eliminated from the sarcolemma. Interestingly, utrophin levels were further increased in these mice. However, enhanced utrophin expression did not mitigate disease. The clinical manifestation of delta-Dko mice was worse than that of mdx mice. They showed characteristic dystrophic signs, body emaciation and more macrophage infiltration. Their lifespan was reduced by 60%. Furthermore, delta-Dko muscle generated significantly less absolute muscle force and became more susceptible to contraction-induced injury. Our results suggest that sub-physiological sarcoglycan expression plays a critical role in ameliorating muscle disease in mdx mice. We speculate that low-level sarcoglycan expression may represent a useful strategy to palliate DMD.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Delocalization of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) from the sarcolemma leads to functional muscle ischemia. This contributes to the pathogenesis in cachexia, aging and muscular dystrophy. Mutations in the gene encoding dystrophin result in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). In many BMD patients and DMD patients that have been converted to BMD by gene therapy, sarcolemmal nNOS is missing due to the lack of dystrophin nNOS-binding domain. METHODS:Dystrophin spectrin-like repeats 16 and 17 (R16/17) is the sarcolemmal nNOS localization domain. Here we explored whether R16/17 protein therapy can restore nNOS to the sarcolemma and prevent functional ischemia in transgenic mice which expressed an R16/17-deleted human micro-dystrophin gene in the dystrophic muscle. The palmitoylated R16/17.GFP fusion protein was conjugated to various cell-penetrating peptides and produced in the baculovirus-insect cell system. The best fusion protein was delivered to the transgenic mice and functional muscle ischemia was quantified. RESULTS:Among five candidate cell-penetrating peptides, the mutant HIV trans-acting activator of transcription (TAT) protein transduction domain (mTAT) was the best in transferring the R16/17.GFP protein to the muscle. Systemic delivery of the mTAT.R16/17.GFP protein to micro-dystrophin transgenic mice successfully restored sarcolemmal nNOS without inducing T cell infiltration. More importantly, R16/17 protein therapy effectively prevented treadmill challenge-induced force loss and improved muscle perfusion during contraction. CONCLUSIONS:Our results suggest that R16/17 protein delivery is a highly promising therapy for muscle diseases involving sarcolemmal nNOS delocalizaton.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disorder resulting from lesions of the gene encoding dystrophin. These usually consist of large genomic deletions, the extents of which are not correlated with the severity of the phenotype. Out-of-frame deletions give rise to dystrophin deficiency and severe DMD phenotypes, while internal deletions that produce in-frame mRNAs encoding truncated proteins can lead to a milder myopathy known as Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). Widespread restoration of dystrophin expression via adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated exon skipping has been successfully demonstrated in the mdx mouse model and in cardiac muscle after percutaneous transendocardial delivery in the golden retriever muscular dystrophy dog (GRMD) model. Here, a set of optimized U7snRNAs carrying antisense sequences designed to rescue dystrophin were delivered into GRMD skeletal muscles by AAV1 gene transfer using intramuscular injection or forelimb perfusion. We show sustained correction of the dystrophic phenotype in extended muscle areas and partial recovery of muscle strength. Muscle architecture was improved and fibers displayed the hallmarks of mature and functional units. A 5-year follow-up ruled out immune rejection drawbacks but showed a progressive decline in the number of corrected muscle fibers, likely due to the persistence of a mild dystrophic process such as occurs in BMD phenotypes. Although AAV-mediated exon skipping was shown safe and efficient to rescue a truncated dystrophin, it appears that recurrent treatments would be required to maintain therapeutic benefit ahead of the progression of the disease.
Project description:Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy severity depends upon the nature and location of the DMD gene lesion and generally correlates with the dystrophin open reading frame. However, there are striking exceptions where an in-frame genomic deletion leads to severe pathology or protein-truncating mutations (nonsense or frame-shifting indels) manifest as mild disease. Exceptions to the dystrophin reading frame rule are usually resolved after molecular diagnosis on muscle RNA. We report a moderate/severe Becker muscular dystrophy patient with an in-frame genomic deletion of DMD exon 5. This mutation has been reported by others as resulting in Duchenne or Intermediate muscular dystrophy, and the loss of this in-frame exon in one patient led to multiple splicing events, including omission of exon 6, that disrupts the open reading frame and is consistent with a severe phenotype. The patient described has a deletion of dystrophin exon 5 that does not compromise recognition of exon 6, and although the deletion does not disrupt the reading frame, his clinical presentation is more severe than would be expected for classical Becker muscular dystrophy. We suggest that the dystrophin isoform lacking the actin-binding sequence encoded by exon 5 is compromised, reflected by the phenotype resulting from induction of this dystrophin isoform in mouse muscle in vivo. Hence, exon skipping to address DMD-causing mutations within DMD exon 5 may not yield an isoform that confers marked clinical benefit. Additional studies will be required to determine whether multi-exon skipping strategies could yield more functional dystrophin isoforms, since some BMD patients with larger in-frame deletions in this region have been reported with mild phenotypes.