Connexin-43 reduction prevents muscle defects in a mouse model of manifesting Duchenne muscular dystrophy female carriers

Julie Nouet, Eric Himelman, Kevin C. Lahey, Qingshi Zhao, Diego Fraidenraich
Scientific Reports2020
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe X-linked neuromuscular disorder that affects males. However, 8% of female carriers are symptomatic and underrepresented in research due to the lack of animal models. We generated a symptomatic mouse model of DMD carriers via injection of mdx (murine DMD) embryonic stem cells (ESCs) into wild-type (WT) blastocysts (mdx/WT chimera). mdx/WT chimeras developed cardiomyopathic features and dystrophic skeletal muscle phenotypes including elevated mononuclear invasion, central nucleation, fibrosis and declined forelimb grip strength. The disease was accompanied by connexin-43 (Cx43) aberrantly enhanced in both cardiac and skeletal muscles and remodeled in the heart. Genetic reduction of Cx43-copy number in mdx/WT-Cx43(+/-) chimeras protected them from both cardiac and skeletal muscle fiber damage. In dystrophic skeletal muscle, Cx43 expression was not seen in the fibers but in adjacent F4/80+ mononuclear cells. Ethidium Bromide uptake in purified F4/80+/CD11b+ mdx macrophages revealed functional activity of Cx43, which was inhibited by administration of Gap19 peptide mimetic, a Cx43 hemichannel-specific inhibitor. Thus, we suggest that Cx43 reduction in symptomatic DMD carrier mice leads to prevention of Cx43 remodeling in the heart and prevention of aberrant Cx43 hemichannel activity in the skeletal muscle macrophages neighboring Cx43 non-expressing fibers.
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