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J Pathol. 2018 Mar;244(3):323-333. doi: 10.1002/path.5016. Epub 2018 Jan 9.

Targeting early PKCθ-dependent T-cell infiltration of dystrophic muscle reduces disease severity in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy.

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Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic Medicine and Orthopedic Sciences (DAHFMO), Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


Chronic muscle inflammation is a critical feature of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and contributes to muscle fibre injury and disease progression. Although previous studies have implicated T cells in the development of muscle fibrosis, little is known about their role during the early stages of muscular dystrophy. Here, we show that T cells are among the first cells to infiltrate mdx mouse dystrophic muscle, prior to the onset of necrosis, suggesting an important role in early disease pathogenesis. Based on our comprehensive analysis of the kinetics of the immune response, we further identify the early pre-necrotic stage of muscular dystrophy as the relevant time frame for T-cell-based interventions. We focused on protein kinase C θ (PKCθ, encoded by Prkcq), a critical regulator of effector T-cell activation, as a potential target to inhibit T-cell activity in dystrophic muscle. Lack of PKCθ not only reduced the frequency and number of infiltrating T cells but also led to quantitative and qualitative changes in the innate immune cell infiltrate in mdx/Prkcq-/- muscle. These changes were due to the inhibition of T cells, since PKCθ was necessary for T-cell but not for myeloid cell infiltration of acutely injured muscle. Targeting T cells with a PKCθ inhibitor early in the disease process markedly diminished the size of the inflammatory cell infiltrate and resulted in reduced muscle damage. Moreover, diaphragm necrosis and fibrosis were also reduced following treatment. Overall, our findings identify the early T-cell infiltrate as a therapeutic target and highlight the potential of PKCθ inhibition as a therapeutic approach to muscular dystrophy. Copyright © 2017 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


PKC-theta; PKCθ; Prkcq; T cells; inflammation; mdx; muscular dystrophy; necrosis


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