Journal Article

Overexpression of a calpastatin transgene in <i>mdx</i> muscle reduces dystrophic pathology

Melissa J. Spencer and Ronald L. Mellgren

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 11, issue 21, pages 2645-2655
Published in print October 2002 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online October 2002 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI:
Overexpression of a calpastatin transgene in mdx muscle reduces dystrophic pathology

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Reduced sarcolemmal integrity in dystrophin-deficient muscles of mdx mice and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients has been reported to result in altered calcium homeostasis. Previous studies have shown a correlative relationship between calcium-dependent protease (calpain) activity in dystrophic muscle and muscle necrosis, but have not tested whether calpain activation precedes cell death or is a consequence of it. To test a causal relationship between calpain activation and muscle cell death in dystrophin deficiency, mdx mice were generated that overexpress a calpastatin transgene in muscle. Calpastatin (CS) is a specific, endogenous inhibitor of m- and µ-calpains that does not inhibit calpain 3 (p94). CS overexpression on a C57/BL 10 background produced no phenotype. Transgenic (Tg) mice crossed with mdx mice were tested for pathological indicators of necrosis, regeneration and membrane damage. Two lines of mice were examined, with different levels of CS overexpression. Both lines of Tg/mdx mice showed reductions in muscle necrosis at 4 weeks of age. These mice had fewer as well as smaller lesions. In addition, one line of mice had significantly less regeneration, indicating a reduction in previous necrosis. The extent of improvement correlated with the level of CS protein expression. Membrane damage, as assessed by procion orange and creatine kinase assays, was unchanged, supporting the idea that calpains act downstream of the primary muscle defect. These data suggest that calpains play an active role in necrotic processes in dystrophic muscle and that inhibition of calpains might provide a good therapeutic option for treatment of DMD.

Journal Article.  7062 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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