Marginal level dystrophin expression improves clinical outcome in a strain of dystrophin/utrophin double knockout mice

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 20;5(12):e15286. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015286.


Inactivation of all utrophin isoforms in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice results in a strain of utrophin knockout mdx (uko/mdx) mice. Uko/mdx mice display severe clinical symptoms and die prematurely as in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients. Here we tested the hypothesis that marginal level dystrophin expression may improve the clinical outcome of uko/mdx mice. It is well established that mdx3cv (3cv) mice express a near-full length dystrophin protein at ∼5% of the normal level. We crossed utrophin-null mutation to the 3cv background. The resulting uko/3cv mice expressed the same level of dystrophin as 3cv mice but utrophin expression was completely eliminated. Surprisingly, uko/3cv mice showed a much milder phenotype. Compared to uko/mdx mice, uko/3cv mice had significantly higher body weight and stronger specific muscle force. Most importantly, uko/3cv outlived uko/mdx mice by several folds. Our results suggest that a threshold level dystrophin expression may provide vital clinical support in a severely affected DMD mouse model. This finding may hold clinical implications in developing novel DMD therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Dystrophin / biosynthesis*
  • Dystrophin / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Heterozygote
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Species Specificity
  • Utrophin / biosynthesis*
  • Utrophin / genetics*


  • Dystrophin
  • Utrophin