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Nat Med. 1998 Dec;4(12):1441-4.

Expression of full-length utrophin prevents muscular dystrophy in mdx mice.

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Department of Human Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, UK.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal, progressive muscle wasting disease caused by a loss of sarcolemmal bound dystrophin, which results in the death of the muscle fiber leading to the gradual depletion of skeletal muscle. The molecular structure of dystrophin is very similar to that of the related protein utrophin. Utrophin is found in all tissues and is confined to the neuromuscular and myotendinous junctions in mature muscle. Sarcolemmal localization of a truncated utrophin transgene in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse significantly improves the dystrophic muscle phenotype. Therefore, up-regulation of utrophin by drug therapy is a plausible therapeutic approach in the treatment of DMD. Here we demonstrate that expression of full-length utrophin in mdx mice prevents the development of muscular dystrophy. We assessed muscle morphology, fiber regeneration and mechanical properties (force development and resistance to stretch) of mdx and transgenic mdx skeletal and diaphragm muscle. The utrophin levels required in muscle are significantly less than the normal endogenous utrophin levels seen in lung and kidney, and we provide evidence that the pathology depends on the amount of utrophin expression. These results also have important implications for DMD therapies in which utrophin replacement is achieved by delivery using exogenous vectors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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