Zebrafish are a powerful tool for studying muscle function owing to their high numbers of offspring, low maintenance costs, evolutionarily conserved muscle functions, and the ability to rapidly take up small molecular compounds during early larval stages. Fukutin-related protein (FKRP) is a putative protein glycosyltransferase that functions in the Golgi apparatus to modify sugar chain molecules of newly translated proteins. Patients with mutations in the FKRP gene can have a wide spectrum of clinical symptoms with varying muscle, eye, and brain pathologies depending on the location of the mutation in the FKRP protein. Patients with a common L276I FKRP mutation have mild adult-onset muscle degeneration known as limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2I (LGMD2I), whereas patients with more C-terminal pathogenic mutations develop the severe Walker-Warburg syndrome (WWS)/muscle-eye-brain (MEB) disease. We generated fkrp-mutant zebrafish that phenocopy WWS/MEB pathologies including severe muscle breakdowns, head malformations, and early lethality. We have also generated a milder LGMD2I-model zebrafish via overexpression of a heat shock–inducible human FKRP (L276I) transgene that shows milder muscle pathology. Screening of an FDA-approved drug compound library in the LGMD2I zebrafish revealed a strong propensity towards steroids, antibacterials, and calcium regulators in ameliorating FKRP-dependent pathologies. Together, these studies demonstrate the utility of the zebrafish to both study human-specific FKRP mutations and perform compound library screenings for corrective drug compounds to treat muscular dystrophies.
Peter R. Serafini, Michael J. Feyder, Rylie M. Hightower, Daniela Garcia-Perez, Natássia M. Vieira, Angela Lek, Devin E. Gibbs, Omar Moukha-Chafiq, Corinne E. Augelli-Szafran, Genri Kawahara, Jeffrey J. Widrick, Louis M. Kunkel, Matthew S. Alexander