Background: In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), abnormal cardiac function is typically preceded by a decade of skeletal muscle disease. Molecular reasons for differences in onset and progression of these muscle groups are unknown. Human biomarkers are lacking.
Methods: We analyzed cardiac and skeletal muscle microarrays from normal and golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) dogs (ages 6, 12, or 47+ mo) to gain insight into muscle dysfunction and to identify putative DMD biomarkers. These biomarkers were then measured using human DMD blood samples.
Results: We identified GRMD candidate genes that might contribute to the disparity between cardiac and skeletal muscle disease, focusing on brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and osteopontin (OPN/SPP1, hereafter indicated as SPP1). BDNF was elevated in cardiac muscle of younger GRMD but was unaltered in skeletal muscle, while SPP1 was increased only in GRMD skeletal muscle. In human DMD, circulating levels of BDNF were inversely correlated with ventricular function and fibrosis, while SPP1 levels correlated with skeletal muscle function.
Conclusion: These results highlight gene expression patterns that could account for differences in cardiac and skeletal disease in GRMD. Most notably, animal model-derived data were translated to DMD and support use of BDNF and SPP1 as biomarkers for cardiac and skeletal muscle involvement, respectively.