Background: The balance between muscle regeneration and ongoing degeneration is a relationship that greatly influences the progression of muscular dystrophy. Numerous factors may influence the muscle regeneration, but more information about the relationship between genotype, clinical severity and the ability to regenerate is needed.
Methods: Muscle biopsies were obtained from the tibialis anterior muscle, and frozen sections were stained for general histopathological and immunohistological evaluation. Differences between groups were considered statistical significant at P < 0.05 using Student's unpaired t-test.
Results: We found that all patients with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2I (LGMD2I) had a large number of internally nucleated fibers, a sign of previous regeneration. The level of expression of muscle-specific developmental proteins, such as neonatal myosin heavy chain (nMHC) and myogenin, was related to the clinical severity. Additionally, we found that the majority of nMHC-positive fibers did not stain positively for utrophin in patients who were compound heterozygous for the L276I mutation, suggesting that the predominant form of regeneration in these patients is fiber repair rather than formation of new fibers. Double staining showed that many smaller nMHC-positive fibers were positive for antibodies against the glycosylation on α-dystroglycan, suggesting that such glycosylation may be a result of muscle regeneration.
Conclusion: Severely affected patients with LGMD2I have a high level of muscle degeneration, which leads to a high rate of regeneration, but this is insufficient to change the imbalance between degeneration and regeneration, ultimately leading to progressive muscle wasting. Detailed information regarding the level and rate of muscle regeneration and potential obstructions of the regenerative pathway should be of use for future therapies involving satellite-cell activation.