The amount and distribution of dystrophin protein in myofibers and muscle is highly variable in Becker muscular dystrophy and in exon-skipping trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Here, we investigate a molecular basis for this variability. In muscle from Becker patients sharing the same exon 45-47 in-frame deletion, dystrophin levels negatively correlate with microRNAs predicted to target dystrophin. Seven microRNAs inhibit dystrophin expression in vitro, and three are validated in vivo (miR-146b/miR-374a/miR-31). microRNAs are expressed in dystrophic myofibers and increase with age and disease severity. In exon-skipping-treated mdx mice, microRNAs are significantly higher in muscles with low dystrophin rescue. TNF-α increases microRNA levels in vitro whereas NFκB inhibition blocks this in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, these data show that microRNAs contribute to variable dystrophin levels in muscular dystrophy. Our findings suggest a model where chronic inflammation in distinct microenvironments induces pathological microRNAs, initiating a self-sustaining feedback loop that exacerbates disease progression.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.