Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a chronic muscle disease characterized by poor myogenesis and replacement of muscle by extracellular matrix. Despite the shared genetic basis, severity of these deficits varies among patients. One source of these variations is the genetic modifier that leads to increased TGF-β activity. While anti–TGF-β therapies are being developed to target muscle fibrosis, their effect on the myogenic deficit is underexplored. Our analysis of in vivo myogenesis in mild (C57BL/10ScSn-mdx/J and C57BL/6J-mdxΔ52) and severe DBA/2J-mdx (D2-mdx) dystrophic models reveals no defects in developmental myogenesis in these mice. However, muscle damage at the onset of disease pathology, or by experimental injury, drives up TGF-β activity in the severe, but not in the mild, dystrophic models. Increased TGF-β activity is accompanied by increased accumulation of fibroadipogenic progenitors (FAPs) leading to fibro-calcification of muscle, together with failure of regenerative myogenesis. Inhibition of TGF-β signaling reduces muscle degeneration by blocking FAP accumulation without rescuing regenerative myogenesis. These findings provide in vivo evidence of early-stage deficit in regenerative myogenesis in D2-mdx mice and implicates TGF-β as a major component of a pathogenic positive feedback loop in this model, identifying this feedback loop as a therapeutic target.
Davi A.G. Mázala, James S. Novak, Marshall W. Hogarth, Marie Nearing, Prabhat Adusumalli, Christopher B. Tully, Nayab F. Habib, Heather Gordish-Dressman, Yi-Wen Chen, Jyoti K. Jaiswal, Terence A. Partridge