Protein dystrophin is a component of the dystrophin-associated protein complex, which links the contractile machinery to the plasma membrane and to the extracellular matrix. Its absence leads to a condition known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a disease characterized by progressive skeletal muscle degeneration, motor disability, and early death. In mdx mice, the most common DMD animal model, loss of muscle cells is observed, but the overall disease alterations are less intense than in DMD patients. Alterations in gastrointestinal tissues from DMD patients and mdx mice are not yet completely understood. Thus, we investigated the possible relationships between morphological (light and electron microscopy) and contractile function (by recording the isometric contractile response) with alterations in Ca²⁺ handling in the ileum of mdx mice. We evidenced a 27% reduction in the ileal muscular layer thickness, a partial damage to the mucosal layer, and a partial damage to mitochondria of the intestinal myocytes. Functionally, the ileum from mdx presented an enhanced responsiveness during stretch, a mild impairment in both the electromechanical and pharmacomechanical signaling associated with altered calcium influx-induced contraction, with no alterations in the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca²⁺ storage (maintenance of the caffeine and thapsigargin-induced contraction) compared with control animals. Thus, it is evidenced that the protein dystrophin plays an important role in the preservation of both the microstructure and ultrastructure of mice intestine, while exerting a minor but important role concerning the intestinal contractile responsiveness and calcium handling.
Keywords: Ca2+ stores; contractility; muscular wasting; nifedipine; smooth muscle.