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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2011 Nov;301(5):C1239-50. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00431.2010. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Physiological and histological changes in skeletal muscle following in vivo gene transfer by electroporation.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Electroporation (EP) is used to transfect skeletal muscle fibers in vivo, but its effects on the structure and function of skeletal muscle tissue have not yet been documented in detail. We studied the changes in contractile function and histology after EP and the influence of the individual steps involved to determine the mechanism of recovery, the extent of myofiber damage, and the efficiency of expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgene in the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle of adult male C57Bl/6J mice. Immediately after EP, contractile torque decreased by ∼80% from pre-EP levels. Within 3 h, torque recovered to ∼50% but stayed low until day 3. Functional recovery progressed slowly and was complete at day 28. In muscles that were depleted of satellite cells by X-irradiation, torque remained low after day 3, suggesting that myogenesis is necessary for complete recovery. In unirradiated muscle, myogenic activity after EP was confirmed by an increase in fibers with central nuclei or developmental myosin. Damage after EP was confirmed by the presence of necrotic myofibers infiltrated by CD68+ macrophages, which persisted in electroporated muscle for 42 days. Expression of GFP was detected at day 3 after EP and peaked on day 7, with ∼25% of fibers transfected. The number of fibers expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP), the distribution of GFP+ fibers, and the intensity of fluorescence in GFP+ fibers were highly variable. After intramuscular injection alone, or application of the electroporating current without injection, torque decreased by ∼20% and ∼70%, respectively, but secondary damage at D3 and later was minimal. We conclude that EP of murine TA muscles produces variable and modest levels of transgene expression, causes myofiber damage due to the interaction of intramuscular injection with the permeabilizing current, and that full recovery requires myogenesis.

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