Muscular dystrophy (MD) describes generalized progressive muscular weakness due to the wasting of muscle fibers. The progression of the disease is affected by known immunological and mechanical factors, and possibly other unknown mechanisms. These dynamics have begun to be elucidated in the last two decades. This article reviews mathematical models of MD and models that could be used to study molecular and cellular components implicated in MD progression. A biological background for these processes is also presented. Molecular effectors that contribute to MD include mitochondrial bioenergetics and genetic factors; both drive cellular metabolism, communication and signaling. These molecular events leave cells vulnerable to mechanical stress which can activate an immunological cascade that weakens cells and surrounding tissues. This review article lays the foundation for a systems biology approach to study MD progression.
Histone acetyl transferases (HATs) and histone deacetylases (HDAC) control transcription during myogenesis. HDACs promote chromatin condensation, inhibiting gene transcription in muscle progenitor cells until myoblast differentiation is triggered and HDACs are released. HATs, namely CBP/p300, activate myogenic regulatory and elongation factors promoting myogenesis. HDAC inhibitors are known to improve regeneration in dystrophic muscles through follistatin upregulation. However, the potential of directly modulating HATs remains unexplored. We tested this possibility in a well-known zebrafish model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Interestingly, CBP/p300 transcripts were found downregulated in the absence of Dystrophin. While investigating CBP rescuing potential we observed that dystrophin-null embryos overexpressing CBP actually never show significant muscle damage, even before a first regeneration cycle could occur. We found that the pan-HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) also prevents early muscle damage, however the single HAT CBP is as efficient even in low doses. The HAT domain of CBP is required for its full rescuing ability. Importantly, both CBP and TSA prevent early muscle damage without restoring endogenous CBP/p300 neither increasing follistatin transcripts. This suggests a new mechanism of action of epigenetic regulators protecting dystrophin-null muscle fibres from detaching, independent from the known improvement of regeneration upon damage of HDACs inhibitors. This study builds supporting evidence that epigenetic modulators may play a role in determining the severity of muscle dystrophy, controlling the ability to resist muscle damage. Determining the mode of action leading to muscle protection can potentially lead to new treatment options for muscular dystrophies in the future.
INTRODUCTION: Both genetic and infectious diseases can result in skeletal muscle degeneration, inflammation, pain, and/or weakness. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common congenital muscle disease. DMD causes progressive muscle wasting due to mutations in Dystrophin. Influenza A and B viruses are frequently associated with muscle complications, especially in children. Infections activate an immune response and immunosuppressant drugs reduce DMD symptoms. These data suggest that the immune system may contribute to muscle pathology. However, roles of the immune response in DMD and Influenza muscle complications are not well understood. Zebrafish with dmd mutations are a well-characterized model in which to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms of DMD pathology. We recently showed that zebrafish can be infected by human Influenza A virus (IAV). Thus, the zebrafish is a powerful system with which to ask questions about the etiology and mechanisms of muscle damage due to genetic and/or infectious diseases.
METHODS: We infected zebrafish with IAV and assayed muscle tissue structure, sarcolemma integrity, cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) attachment, and molecular and cellular markers of inflammation in response to IAV infection alone or in the context of DMD.
RESULTS: We find that IAV-infected zebrafish display mild muscle degeneration with sarcolemma damage and compromised ECM adhesion. An innate immune response is elicited in muscle in IAV-infected zebrafish: NFkB signaling is activated, pro-inflammatory cytokine expression is upregulated, and neutrophils localize to sites of muscle damage. IAV-infected dmd mutants display more severe muscle damage than would be expected from an additive effect of dmd mutation and IAV infection, suggesting that muscle damage caused by Dystrophin-deficiency and IAV infection is synergistic.
DISCUSSION: These data demonstrate the importance of preventing IAV infections in individuals with genetic muscle diseases. Elucidating the mechanisms of immune-mediated muscle damage will not only apply to DMD and IAV, but also to other conditions where the immune system, inflammation, and muscle tissue are known to be affected, such as autoimmune diseases, cancer, and aging.
Background: In the absence of a curative treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), corticosteroid therapy (prednisone, deflazacort) has been adopted as the standard of care, as it slows the progression of muscle weakness and enables longer retention of functional mobility. The ongoing development of novel pharmacological agents that target the genetic defect underlying DMD offer hope for a significant alteration in disease progression; however, substantiation of therapeutic efficacy has proved challenging. Identifying functional outcomes sensitive to the early, subtle changes in muscle function has confounded clinical trials. Additionally, the alterations in disease progression secondary to corticosteroid therapy are not well described making it difficult to ascertain the benefits of novel agents, often taken concurrently with corticosteroids.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine outcome responsiveness to corticosteroid therapy and age at the onset of a natural history study of ambulatory boys with DMD.
Methods: Eighty-five ambulatory boys with DMD (mean age 93 mo, range 49 to 180 mo) were recruited into this study. Fifty participants were on corticosteroid therapy, while 33 were corticosteroid naïve at the baseline assessment. Within each treatment group boys were divided in two age groups, 4 to 7 years and 8 and greater years of age. The Biodex System 3 Pro isokinetic dynamometer was used to assess muscle strength. Motor skills were assessed using the upper two dimensions (standing/walking, running & jumping) of the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM 88) and Timed Motor Tests (TMTs) (10-meter run, sit to stand, supine to stand, climb 4-stairs). Two way analysis of variance and Pearson correlations were used for analysis.
Results: A main effect for age was seen in select lower extremity muscle groups (hip flexors, knee extensors and ankle dorsiflexors), standing dimension skills, and all TMTs with significantly greater weakness and loss of motor skill ability seen in the older age group regardless of treatment group. Interaction effects were seen for the walking, running, and jumping dimension of the GMFM with the naïve boys scoring higher in the younger group and boys on corticosteroid therapy scoring higher in the older group. The TMT of climb 4-stairs demonstrated a significant treatment effect with the boys on corticosteroid therapy climbing stairs faster than those who were naïve, regardless of age. Examination of individual items within the upper level GMFM dimensions revealed select motor skills are more informative of disease progression than others; indicating their potential to be sensitive indicators of alterations in disease progression and intervention efficacy. Analysis of the relationship between muscle group strength and motor skill performance revealed differences in use patterns in the corticosteroid versus naïve boys.
Conclusion: Significant muscle weakness is apparent in young boys with DMD regardless of corticosteroid treatment; however, older boys on corticosteroid therapy tend to have greater retention of muscle strength and motor skill ability than those who are naive. Quantification of muscle strength via isokinetic dynamometry is feasible and sensitive to the variable rates of disease progression in lower extremity muscle groups, but possibly most informative are the subtle changes in the performance characteristics of select motor skills. Further analysis of longitudinal data from this study will explore the influence of corticosteroid therapy on muscle strength and further clarify its impact on motor performance.