LAMA2 deficiency, resulting from a defective or absent laminin α2 subunit, is a common cause of congenital muscular dystrophy. It is characterized by muscle weakness from myofiber degeneration and neuropathy from Schwann cell amyelination. Previously it was shown that transgenic muscle-specific expression of αLNNd, a laminin γ1–binding linker protein that enables polymerization in defective laminins, selectively ameliorates the muscle abnormality in mouse disease models. Here, adeno-associated virus was used to deliver linker mini-genes to dystrophic dy2J/dy2J mice for expression of αLNNd in muscle, or αLNNdΔG2′, a shortened linker, in muscle, nerve, and other tissues. Linker and laminin α2 levels were higher in αLNNdΔG2′-treated mice. Both αLNNd- and αLNNdΔG2′-treated mice exhibited increased forelimb grip strength. Further, αLNNdΔG2′-treated mice achieved hind limb and all-limb grip strength levels approaching those of WT mice as well as ablation of hind limb paresis and contractures. This was accompanied by restoration of sciatic nerve axonal envelopment and myelination. Improvement of muscle histology was evident in the muscle-specific αLNNd-expressing mice but more extensive in the αLNNdΔG2′-expressing mice. The results reveal that an αLN linker mini-gene, driven by a ubiquitous promoter, is superior to muscle-specific delivery because of its higher expression that extends to the peripheral nerve. These studies support a potentially novel approach of somatic gene therapy.


Karen K. McKee, Peter D. Yurchenco


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