Induction of CCAAT/Enhancer-Binding Protein β Expression With the Phosphodiesterase Inhibitor Isobutylmethylxanthine Improves Myoblast Engraftment Into Dystrophic Muscle

Stem Cells Transl Med. 2016 Apr;5(4):500-10. doi: 10.5966/sctm.2015-0169. Epub 2016 Mar 3.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, is the most common muscular dystrophy. Characterized by rounds of muscle degeneration and regeneration, DMD features progressive muscle wasting and is fatal. One approach for treatment is transplantation of muscle progenitor cells to repair and restore dystrophin expression to damaged muscle. However, the success of this approach has been limited by difficulties in isolating large numbers of myogenic progenitors with strong regenerative potential, poor engraftment, poor survival of donor cells, and limited migration in the diseased muscle. We demonstrate that induction of the transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ) using the cyclic adenosine monophosphate phosphodiesterase inhibitor isobutylmethylxanthine (IBMX) results in enhanced myoblast expansion in culture and increased satellite cell marker expression. When equal numbers of IBMX-treated cells were transplanted into dystrophic muscle, they contributed to muscle repair more efficiently than did vehicle-treated cells and engrafted into the satellite cell niche in higher numbers, demonstrating improved cell migration from the site of injury and enhanced survival after transplantation. Thus, pharmacologic stimulation of C/EBPβ expression reprograms myoblasts to a more stem cell-like state, promotes expansion in culture, and improves engraftment such that better transplantation outcomes are achieved.

Significance: Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder for which no cure exists. One therapeutic approach is transplantation of myogenic progenitors to restore dystrophin to damaged muscle, but this approach is limited by poor engraftment of cultured myoblasts. Transient upregulation of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β in primary myoblasts using the phosphodiesterase isobutylmethylxanthine (IBMX) increases satellite cell marker expression in cultured myoblasts, improves their migration, and increases their survival after transplantation. When transplanted into C57BL/10ScSn-mdx/J mice , IBMX-treated myoblasts restored dystrophin expression and were able to occupy the satellite cell niche more efficiently than controls. A myoblast culture approach that reprograms myoblasts to a more primitive state, resulting in improved transplantation outcomes and reinvigorating research into myoblast transplantation as a viable therapeutic approach, is described.

Keywords: CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein-β; Muscular dystrophies; Pax7 transcription factor; Phosphodiesterase inhibitors; Skeletal muscle satellite cells; Stem cell transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta / genetics*
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Graft Survival / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle Development / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy*
  • Myoblasts / drug effects*
  • Myoblasts / metabolism
  • Myoblasts / physiology
  • Myoblasts / transplantation*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Stem Cell Niche / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta
  • Cebpb protein, mouse
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine