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      A high–throughput digital script for multiplexed immunofluorescent analysis and quantification of sarcolemmal and sarcomeric proteins in muscular dystrophies

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          The primary molecular endpoint for many Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) clinical trials is the induction, or increase in production, of dystrophin protein in striated muscle. For accurate endpoint analysis, it is essential to have reliable, robust and objective quantification methodologies capable of detecting subtle changes in dystrophin expression. In this work, we present further development and optimisation of an automated, digital, high-throughput script for quantitative analysis of multiplexed immunofluorescent (IF) whole slide images (WSI) of dystrophin, dystrophin associated proteins (DAPs) and regenerating myofibres (fetal/developmental myosin-positive) in transverse sections of DMD, Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) and control skeletal muscle biopsies. The script enables extensive automated assessment of myofibre morphometrics, protein quantification by fluorescence intensity and sarcolemmal circumference coverage, colocalisation data for dystrophin and DAPs and regeneration at the single myofibre and whole section level. Analysis revealed significant variation in dystrophin intensity, percentage coverage and amounts of DAPs between differing DMD and BMD samples. Accurate identification of dystrophin via a novel background subtraction method allowed differential assessment of DAP fluorescence intensity within dystrophin positive compared to dystrophin negative sarcolemma regions. This enabled surrogate quantification of molecular functionality of dystrophin in the assembly of the DAP complex. Overall, the digital script is capable of multiparametric and unbiased analysis of markers of myofibre regeneration and dystrophin in relation to key DAPs and enabled better characterisation of the heterogeneity in dystrophin expression patterns seen in BMD and DMD alongside the surrogate assessment of molecular functionality of dystrophin. Both these aspects will be of significant relevance to ongoing and future DMD and other muscular dystrophies clinical trials to help benchmark therapeutic efficacy.

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          Exon skipping and dystrophin restoration in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy after systemic phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer treatment: an open-label, phase 2, dose-escalation study

          Summary Background We report clinical safety and biochemical efficacy from a dose-ranging study of intravenously administered AVI-4658 phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Method We undertook an open-label, phase 2, dose-escalation study (0·5, 1·0, 2·0, 4·0, 10·0, and 20·0 mg/kg bodyweight) in ambulant patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy aged 5–15 years with amenable deletions in DMD. Participants had a muscle biopsy before starting treatment and after 12 weekly intravenous infusions of AVI-4658. The primary study objective was to assess safety and tolerability of AVI-4658. The secondary objectives were pharmacokinetic properties and the ability of AVI-4658 to induce exon 51 skipping and dystrophin restoration by RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and immunoblotting. The study is registered, number NCT00844597. Findings 19 patients took part in the study. AVI-4658 was well tolerated with no drug-related serious adverse events. AVI-4658 induced exon 51 skipping in all cohorts and new dystrophin protein expression in a significant dose-dependent (p=0·0203), but variable, manner in boys from cohort 3 (dose 2 mg/kg) onwards. Seven patients responded to treatment, in whom mean dystrophin fluorescence intensity increased from 8·9% (95% CI 7·1–10·6) to 16·4% (10·8–22·0) of normal control after treatment (p=0·0287). The three patients with the greatest responses to treatment had 21%, 15%, and 55% dystrophin-positive fibres after treatment and these findings were confirmed with western blot, which showed an increase after treatment of protein levels from 2% to 18%, from 0·9% to 17%, and from 0% to 7·7% of normal muscle, respectively. The dystrophin-associated proteins α-sarcoglycan and neuronal nitric oxide synthase were also restored at the sarcolemma. Analysis of the inflammatory infiltrate indicated a reduction of cytotoxic T cells in the post-treatment muscle biopsies in the two high-dose cohorts. Interpretation The safety and biochemical efficacy that we present show the potential of AVI-4658 to become a disease-modifying drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Funding UK Medical Research Council; AVI BioPharma.
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            Function and genetics of dystrophin and dystrophin-related proteins in muscle.

            The X-linked muscle-wasting disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the gene encoding dystrophin. There is currently no effective treatment for the disease; however, the complex molecular pathology of this disorder is now being unravelled. Dystrophin is located at the muscle sarcolemma in a membrane-spanning protein complex that connects the cytoskeleton to the basal lamina. Mutations in many components of the dystrophin protein complex cause other forms of autosomally inherited muscular dystrophy, indicating the importance of this complex in normal muscle function. Although the precise function of dystrophin is unknown, the lack of protein causes membrane destabilization and the activation of multiple pathophysiological processes, many of which converge on alterations in intracellular calcium handling. Dystrophin is also the prototype of a family of dystrophin-related proteins, many of which are found in muscle. This family includes utrophin and alpha-dystrobrevin, which are involved in the maintenance of the neuromuscular junction architecture and in muscle homeostasis. New insights into the pathophysiology of dystrophic muscle, the identification of compensating proteins, and the discovery of new binding partners are paving the way for novel therapeutic strategies to treat this fatal muscle disease. This review discusses the role of the dystrophin complex and protein family in muscle and describes the physiological processes that are affected in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
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              Local dystrophin restoration with antisense oligonucleotide PRO051.

              Duchenne's muscular dystrophy is associated with severe, progressive muscle weakness and typically leads to death between the ages of 20 and 35 years. By inducing specific exon skipping during messenger RNA (mRNA) splicing, antisense compounds were recently shown to correct the open reading frame of the DMD gene and thus to restore dystrophin expression in vitro and in animal models in vivo. We explored the safety, adverse-event profile, and local dystrophin-restoring effect of a single, intramuscular dose of an antisense oligonucleotide, PRO051, in patients with this disease. Four patients, who were selected on the basis of their mutational status, muscle condition, and positive exon-skipping response to PRO051 in vitro, received a dose of 0.8 mg of PRO051 injected into the tibialis anterior muscle. A biopsy was performed 28 days later. Safety measures, composition of mRNA, and dystrophin expression were assessed. PRO051 injection was not associated with clinically apparent adverse events. Each patient showed specific skipping of exon 51 and sarcolemmal dystrophin in 64 to 97% of myofibers. The amount of dystrophin in total protein extracts ranged from 3 to 12% of that found in the control specimen and from 17 to 35% of that of the control specimen in the quantitative ratio of dystrophin to laminin alpha2. Intramuscular injection of antisense oligonucleotide PRO051 induced dystrophin synthesis in four patients with Duchenne's muscular dystrophy who had suitable mutations, suggesting that further studies might be feasible. Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.

                Author and article information

                Acta Neuropathol Commun
                Acta Neuropathol Commun
                Acta Neuropathologica Communications
                BioMed Central (London )
                17 April 2020
                17 April 2020
                : 8
                [1 ]GRID grid.83440.3b, ISNI 0000000121901201, Dubowitz Neuromuscular Centre, , UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, ; London, UK
                [2 ]GRID grid.424537.3, ISNI 0000 0004 5902 9895, NIHR Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre, , UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health & Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, ; London, UK
                [3 ]GRID grid.83440.3b, ISNI 0000000121901201, Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases, , UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, ; London, UK
                [4 ]GRID grid.5491.9, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9297, School of Cancer Sciences, , University of Southampton, ; Southampton, UK
                [5 ]GRID grid.424537.3, ISNI 0000 0004 5902 9895, Dubowitz Neuromuscular Centre, , UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology & Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, ; London, UK
                [6 ]GRID grid.451052.7, ISNI 0000 0004 0581 2008, Division of Neuropathology, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, , UCLH NHS Foundation Trust, ; London, UK
                [7 ]GRID grid.83440.3b, ISNI 0000000121901201, Dubowitz Neuromuscular Centre, Division of Neuropathology, , UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, ; Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG UK
                © The Author(s) 2020

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                Funded by: Cancer Research UK
                Award ID: Cl 15121 A 20256
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                Funded by: Sarepta Therapeutics Inc
                Methodology Article
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