Pharmacologically induced mouse model of adult spinal muscular atrophy to evaluate effectiveness of therapeutics after disease onset

Hum Mol Genet. 2016 Mar 1;25(5):964-75. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddv629. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease characterized by atrophy of muscle and loss of spinal motor neurons. SMA is caused by deletion or mutation of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, and the nearly identical SMN2 gene fails to generate adequate levels of functional SMN protein due to a splicing defect. Currently, several therapeutics targeted to increase SMN protein are in clinical trials. An outstanding issue in the field is whether initiating treatment in symptomatic older patients would confer a therapeutic benefit, an important consideration as the majority of patients with milder forms of SMA are diagnosed at an older age. An SMA mouse model that recapitulates the disease phenotype observed in adolescent and adult SMA patients is needed to address this important question. We demonstrate here that Δ7 mice, a model of severe SMA, treated with a suboptimal dose of an SMN2 splicing modifier show increased SMN protein, survive into adulthood and display SMA disease-relevant pathologies. Increasing the dose of the splicing modifier after the disease symptoms are apparent further mitigates SMA histopathological features in suboptimally dosed adult Δ7 mice. In addition, inhibiting myostatin using intramuscular injection of AAV1-follistatin ameliorates muscle atrophy in suboptimally dosed Δ7 mice. Taken together, we have developed a new murine model of symptomatic SMA in adolescents and adult mice that is induced pharmacologically from a more severe model and demonstrated efficacy of both SMN2 splicing modifiers and a myostatin inhibitor in mice at later disease stages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Animals
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Dependovirus / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Follistatin / pharmacology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genetic Vectors / chemistry
  • Genetic Vectors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / drug therapy*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / metabolism
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / pathology
  • Myostatin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Myostatin / genetics
  • Myostatin / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Splicing / drug effects*
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein / genetics*
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein / metabolism
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein / agonists*
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein / genetics
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein / metabolism


  • Follistatin
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Mstn protein, mouse
  • Myostatin
  • SMN2 protein, mouse
  • Smn1 protein, mouse
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein