Mdx mice inducibly expressing dystrophin provide insights into the potential of gene therapy for duchenne muscular dystrophy

A Ahmad, M Brinson, B L Hodges, J S Chamberlain, A Amalfitano
Human Molecular Genetics 2000 October 12, 9 (17): 2507-15
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disease caused by the lack of expression of the dystrophin protein in muscle tissues. We genetically engineered a mouse model (mdx) of DMD that allowed for the high level and inducible transcription of a dystrophin mini-gene. This was achieved via the tetracycline-responsive transactivator (tTA) system. Multiple analyses confirmed that dystrophin expression in the mice was: (i) tTA dependent; (ii) correctly localized to the sarcolemmal membranes; (iii) capable of preventing the onset of dystrophy; and (iv) effectively blocked by the oral administration of tetracyclines. The model allowed us to somatically extinguish or induce dystrophin gene transcription. Somatic induction of dystrophin transcription prevented the onset of muscular dystrophy in some muscle groups. The levels of phenotypic rescue were influenced, however, by the age of the animals at the time of dystrophin induction. We also found that despite somatic termination of dystrophin gene transcription, the dystrophin protein was found to be associated with the sarcolemmal membrane for at least 26 weeks. Persistent detection of dystrophin was also accompanied by a prolonged protection of the muscle cells from the onset of dystrophy. The findings demonstrated that somatic transfer of the dystrophin gene not only may allow for the prevention of muscular dystrophy in multiple muscle groups, but also may be accompanied by persistent efficacy, secondary to the long-term functional stability of the dystrophin protein in vivo. This model should be useful in future studies concerning the potential of genetic therapy for DMD, as well as other muscle disorders.

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