What is the central question of this study? Is autonomic dysregulation in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy dependent on left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or activation of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and does it predict development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)? What is the main finding and its importance? The results demonstrate that autonomic dysregulation precedes and predicts left ventricular dysfunction and DCM in sarcoglycan-δ-deficient (Sgcd-/-) mice. The autonomic dysregulation is prevented by treatment of young Sgcd-/- mice with the angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocker losartan. Measurements of RAS activation and autonomic dysregulation may predict risk of DCM, and therapies targeting the RAS and autonomic dysregulation at a young age may slow disease progression in patients. Sarcoglycan mutations cause muscular dystrophy. Patients with muscular dystrophy develop autonomic dysregulation and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), but the temporal relationship and mechanism of autonomic dysregulation are not well understood. We hypothesized that activation of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) causes autonomic dysregulation prior to development of DCM in sarcoglycan-δ-deficient (Sgcd-/-) mice and that the severity of autonomic dysfunction at a young age predicts the severity of DCM at older ages. At 10-12 weeks of age, when left ventricular function assessed by echocardiography remained normal, Sgcd-/- mice exhibited decreases in arterial pressure, locomotor activity, baroreflex sensitivity and cardiovagal tone and increased sympathetic tone compared with age-matched C57BL/6 control mice (P < 0.05). Systemic and skeletal muscle RAS were activated, and angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1 R) expression, superoxide and fibrosis were increased in dystrophic skeletal muscle (P < 0.05). Treatment with the AT1 R blocker losartan for 7-9 weeks beginning at 3 weeks of age prevented or strongly attenuated the abnormalities in Sgcd-/- mice (P < 0.05). Repeated assessment of phenotypes between 10 and 75 weeks of age demonstrated worsening of autonomic function, progressive cardiac dysfunction and DCM and increased mortality in Sgcd-/- mice. High sympathetic tone predicted subsequent left ventricular dysfunction. We conclude that activation of the RAS causes severe autonomic dysregulation in young Sgcd-/- mice, which portends a worse long-term prognosis. Therapeutic targeting of the RAS at a young age may improve autonomic function and slow disease progression in muscular dystrophy.
© 2015 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2015 The Physiological Society.