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PLoS Med. 2009 May 26;6(5):e1000083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000083. Epub 2009 May 26.

Functional substitution by TAT-utrophin in dystrophin-deficient mice.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The loss of dystrophin compromises muscle cell membrane stability and causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy and/or various forms of cardiomyopathy. Increased expression of the dystrophin homolog utrophin by gene delivery or pharmacologic up-regulation has been demonstrated to restore membrane integrity and improve the phenotype in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse. However, the lack of a viable therapy in humans predicates the need to explore alternative methods to combat dystrophin deficiency. We investigated whether systemic administration of recombinant full-length utrophin (Utr) or DeltaR4-21 "micro" utrophin (muUtr) protein modified with the cell-penetrating TAT protein transduction domain could attenuate the phenotype of mdx mice.

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

Recombinant TAT-Utr and TAT-muUtr proteins were expressed using the baculovirus system and purified using FLAG-affinity chromatography. Age-matched mdx mice received six twice-weekly intraperitoneal injections of either recombinant protein or PBS. Three days after the final injection, mice were analyzed for several phenotypic parameters of dystrophin deficiency. Injected TAT-muUtr transduced all tissues examined, integrated with members of the dystrophin complex, reduced serum levels of creatine kinase (11,290+/-920 U versus 5,950+/-1,120 U; PBS versus TAT), the prevalence of muscle degeneration/regeneration (54%+/-5% versus 37%+/-4% of centrally nucleated fibers; PBS versus TAT), the susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced force drop (72%+/-5% versus 40%+/-8% drop; PBS versus TAT), and increased specific force production (9.7+/-1.1 N/cm(2) versus 12.8+/-0.9 N/cm(2); PBS versus TAT).

CONCLUSIONS:

These results are, to our knowledge, the first to establish the efficacy and feasibility of TAT-utrophin-based constructs as a novel direct protein-replacement therapy for the treatment of skeletal and cardiac muscle diseases caused by loss of dystrophin.

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