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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Aug 1;20(15):2955-63. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr199. Epub 2011 May 10.

Internal deletion compromises the stability of dystrophin.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a deadly and common childhood disease caused by mutations that disrupt dystrophin protein expression. Several miniaturized dystrophin/utrophin constructs are utilized for gene therapy, and while these constructs have shown promise in mouse models, the functional integrity of these proteins is not well described. Here, we compare the biophysical properties of full-length dystrophin and utrophin with therapeutically relevant miniaturized constructs using an insect cell expression system. Full-length utrophin, like dystrophin, displayed a highly cooperative melting transition well above 37°C. Utrophin constructs involving N-terminal, C-terminal or internal deletions were remarkably stable, showing cooperative melting transitions identical to full-length utrophin. In contrast, large dystrophin deletions from either the N- or C-terminus exhibited variable stability, as evidenced by melting transitions that differed by 20°C. Most importantly, deletions in the large central rod domain of dystrophin resulted in a loss of cooperative unfolding with increased propensity for aggregation. Our results suggest that the functionality of dystrophin therapeutics based on mini- or micro-constructs may be compromised by the presence of non-native protein junctions that result in protein misfolding, instability and aggregation.

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