Expression of a NOS transgene in dystrophin-deficient muscle reduces muscle membrane damage without increasing the expression of membrane-associated cytoskeletal proteins

James G Tidball, Michelle Wehling-Henricks
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 2004, 82 (4): 312-20
Muscular dystrophy that is caused by mutation of the membrane-associated, cytoskeletal protein called dystrophin, is accompanied by loss of a dystrophin-associated protein complex (DPC) that includes neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). Previous work showed that expression of a nNOS transgene in the dystrophin-deficient, mdx mouse greatly reduces muscle membrane damage. In this investigation, we test whether expression of a nNOS transgene in wild-type or mdx muscle increases expression of DPC proteins, or functionally related proteins in the integrin complex that are upregulated in dystrophin-deficiency, or affects expression of the dystrophin homolog, utrophin. Many members of the DPC are enriched in Western blots of cell membranes isolated from NOS transgenic muscle, compared to wild-type. Similarly, alpha7-integrin and the associated cytoskeletal proteins talin and vinculin are increased in NOS transgenic, non-dystrophic muscle. However, utrophin expression is unaffected by elevated NOS expression in healthy muscle. A similar trend in mRNA levels for these proteins was observed by expression profiling. Analysis of membrane preparations from mdx mice and NOS transgenic mdx mice shows that expression of the NOS transgene causes significant reductions in utrophin, talin, and vinculin. Expression profiling of mRNA from mdx and NOS transgenic mdx muscles also shows reduced expression of talin. Immunohistochemistry of mdx and NOS transgenic mdx muscle indicates that reduction in utrophin in NOS transgenic mdx muscle results from a decrease in regenerative fibers that express high levels of utrophin. Together, these findings indicate that the NOS transgene does not reduce dystrophinopathy by increasing the expression of compensatory, structural proteins.

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