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Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Apr 1;28(7):1117-1135. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy418.

Persistent upregulation of the β-tubulin tubb6, linked to muscle regeneration, is a source of microtubule disorganization in dystrophic muscle.

Author information

Light Imaging Section, Office of Science and Technology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA.
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics, and Program in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, Muscle Disease Unit, NIAMS, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.


In healthy adult skeletal muscle fibers microtubules form a three-dimensional grid-like network. In the mdx mouse, a model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), microtubules are mostly disordered, without periodicity. These microtubule defects have been linked to the mdx mouse pathology. We now report that increased expression of the beta 6 class V β-tubulin (tubb6) contributes to the microtubule changes of mdx muscles. Wild-type muscle fibers overexpressing green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tubb6 (but not GFP-tubb5) have disorganized microtubules whereas mdx muscle fibers depleted of tubb6 (but not of tubb5) normalize their microtubules, suggesting that increasing tubb6 is toxic. However, tubb6 increases spontaneously during differentiation of mouse and human muscle cultures. Furthermore, endogenous tubb6 is not uniformly expressed in mdx muscles but is selectively increased in fiber clusters, which we identify as regenerating. Similarly, mdx-based rescued transgenic mice that retain a higher than expected tubb6 level show focal expression of tubb6 in subsets of fibers. Tubb6 is also upregulated in cardiotoxin-induced mouse muscle regeneration, in human myositis and DMD biopsies, and the tubb6 level correlates with that of embryonic myosin heavy chain, a regeneration marker. In conclusion, modulation of a β-tubulin isotype plays a role in muscle differentiation and regeneration. Increased tubb6 expression and microtubule reorganization are not pathological per se but reflect a return to an earlier developmental stage. However, chronic elevation of tubb6, as occurs in the mdx mouse, may contribute to the repeated cycles of regeneration and to the pathology of the disease.

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