Myotonic dystrophy is the most common adult muscle dystrophy. In view of emerging therapies, which use animal models as a proof of principle, the development of reliable outcome measures for in vivo longitudinal study of mouse skeletal muscle function is becoming crucial. To satisfy this need, we have developed a device to measure ankle dorsi- and plantarflexion torque in rodents. We present an in vivo 8-month longitudinal study of the contractile properties of the skeletal muscles of the DMSXL mouse model of myotonic dystrophy type 1. Between 4 and 12months of age, we observed a reduction in muscle strength in the ankle dorsi- and plantarflexors of DMSXL compared to control mice although the strength per muscle cross-section was normal. Mild steady myotonia but no abnormal muscle fatigue was also observed in the DMSXL mice. Magnetic resonance imaging and histological analysis performed at the end of the study showed respectively reduced muscle cross-section area and smaller muscle fibre diameter in DMSXL mice. In conclusion, our study demonstrates the feasibility of carrying out longitudinal in vivo studies of muscle function over several months in a mouse model of myotonic dystrophy confirming the feasibility of this method to test preclinical therapeutics.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 is a complex multisystemic inherited disorder, which displays multiple debilitating neurological manifestations. Despite recent progress in the understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of myotonic dystrophy type 1 in skeletal muscle and heart, the pathways affected in the central nervous system are largely unknown. To address this question, we studied the only transgenic mouse line expressing CTG trinucleotide repeats in the central nervous system. These mice recreate molecular features of RNA toxicity, such as RNA foci accumulation and missplicing. They exhibit relevant behavioural and cognitive phenotypes, deficits in short-term synaptic plasticity, as well as changes in neurochemical levels. In the search for disease intermediates affected by disease mutation, a global proteomics approach revealed RAB3A upregulation and synapsin I hyperphosphorylation in the central nervous system of transgenic mice, transfected cells and post-mortem brains of patients with myotonic dystrophy type 1. These protein defects were associated with electrophysiological and behavioural deficits in mice and altered spontaneous neurosecretion in cell culture. Taking advantage of a relevant transgenic mouse of a complex human disease, we found a novel connection between physiological phenotypes and synaptic protein dysregulation, indicative of synaptic dysfunction in myotonic dystrophy type 1 brain pathology.
Trinucleotide expansions cause disease by both protein- and RNA-mediated mechanisms. Unexpectedly, we discovered that CAG expansion constructs express homopolymeric polyglutamine, polyalanine, and polyserine proteins in the absence of an ATG start codon. This repeat-associated non-ATG translation (RAN translation) occurs across long, hairpin-forming repeats in transfected cells or when expansion constructs are integrated into the genome in lentiviral-transduced cells and brains. Additionally, we show that RAN translation across human spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8) and myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) CAG expansion transcripts results in the accumulation of SCA8 polyalanine and DM1 polyglutamine expansion proteins in previously established SCA8 and DM1 mouse models and human tissue. These results have implications for understanding fundamental mechanisms of gene expression. Moreover, these toxic, unexpected, homopolymeric proteins now should be considered in pathogenic models of microsatellite disorders.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a neuromuscular disease caused by the expansion of a CTG repeat in the DMPK gene and characterised by progressive skeletal muscle weakness and wasting. To investigate the effects of the CTG expansion on the physiological function of the skeletal muscles, we have used a transgenic mouse model carrying the human DM1 region with 550 expanded CTG repeats. Maximal force is reduced in the skeletal muscles of 10-month-old but not in 3-month-old DM1 mice when compared to age-matched non-transgenic littermates. The progressive weakness observed in the DM1 mice is directly related to the reduced muscle mass and muscle fibre size. A significant increase in trypsin-like proteasome activity and Fbxo32 expression is also measured in the DM1 muscles indicating that an atrophic process mediated by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway may contribute to the progressive muscle wasting and weakness in the DM1 mice.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by an unstable CTG repeat expansion in the 3UTR of the DM protein kinase (DMPK) gene. DMPK transcripts carrying CUG expansions form nuclear foci and affect splicing regulation of various RNA transcripts. Furthermore, bidirectional transcription over the DMPK gene and non-conventional RNA translation of repeated transcripts have been described in DM1. It is clear now that this disease may involve multiple pathogenic pathways including changes in gene expression, RNA stability and splicing regulation, protein translation, and micro-RNA metabolism. We previously generated transgenic mice with 45-kb of the DM1 locus and >300 CTG repeats (DM300 mice). After successive breeding and a high level of CTG repeat instability, we obtained transgenic mice carrying >1,000 CTG (DMSXL mice). Here we described for the first time the expression pattern of the DMPK sense transcripts in DMSXL and human tissues. Interestingly, we also demonstrate that DMPK antisense transcripts are expressed in various DMSXL and human tissues, and that both sense and antisense transcripts accumulate in independent nuclear foci that do not co-localize together. Molecular features of DM1-associated RNA toxicity in DMSXL mice (such as foci accumulation and mild missplicing), were associated with high mortality, growth retardation, and muscle defects (abnormal histopathology, reduced muscle strength, and lower motor performances). We have found that lower levels of IGFBP-3 may contribute to DMSXL growth retardation, while increased proteasome activity may affect muscle function. These data demonstrate that the human DM1 locus carrying very large expansions induced a variety of molecular and physiological defects in transgenic mice, reflecting DM1 to a certain extent. As a result, DMSXL mice provide an animal tool to decipher various aspects of the disease mechanisms. In addition, these mice can be used to test the preclinical impact of systemic therapeutic strategies on molecular and physiological phenotypes.
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