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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 29;108(13):5331-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102116108. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Drug screening in a zebrafish model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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Division of Genetics, Program in Genomics, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Two known zebrafish dystrophin mutants, sapje and sapje-like (sap(c/100)), represent excellent small-animal models of human muscular dystrophy. Using these dystrophin-null zebrafish, we have screened the Prestwick chemical library for small molecules that modulate the muscle phenotype in these fish. With a quick and easy birefringence assay, we have identified seven small molecules that influence muscle pathology in dystrophin-null zebrafish without restoration of dystrophin expression. Three of seven candidate chemicals restored normal birefringence and increased survival of dystrophin-null fish. One chemical, aminophylline, which is known to be a nonselective phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor, had the greatest ability to restore normal muscle structure and up-regulate the cAMP-dependent PKA pathway in treated dystrophin-deficient fish. Moreover, other PDE inhibitors also reduced the percentage of affected sapje fish. The identification of compounds, especially PDE inhibitors, that moderate the muscle phenotype in these dystrophin-null zebrafish validates the screening protocol described here and may lead to candidate molecules to be used as therapeutic interventions in human muscular dystrophy.

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