Increased constitutive nitric oxide production by whole body periodic acceleration ameliorates alterations in cardiomyocytes associated with utrophin/dystrophin deficiency

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2017 Jul;108:149-157. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jun 13.


Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) cardiomyopathy is a progressive lethal disease caused by the lack of the dystrophin protein in the heart. The most widely used animal model of DMD is the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse; however, these mice exhibit a mild dystrophic phenotype with heart failure only late in life. In contrast, mice deficient for both dystrophin and utrophin (mdx/utrn-/-, or dKO) can be used to model severe DMD cardiomyopathy where pathophysiological indicators of heart failure are detectable by 8-10weeks of age. Nitric oxide (NO) is an important signaling molecule involved in vital functions of regulating rhythm, contractility, and microcirculation of the heart, and constitutive NO production affects the function of proteins involved in excitation-contraction coupling. In this study, we explored the efficacy of enhancing NO production as a therapeutic strategy for treating DMD cardiomyopathy using the dKO mouse model of DMD. Specifically, NO production was induced via whole body periodic acceleration (pGz), a novel non-pharmacologic intervention which enhances NO synthase (NOS) activity through sinusoidal motion of the body in a headward-footward direction, introducing pulsatile shear stress to the vascular endothelium and cardiomyocyte plasma membrane. Male dKO mice were randomized at 8weeks of age to receive daily pGz (480cpm, Gz±3.0m/s2, 1h/d) for 4weeks or no treatment, and a separate age-matched group of WT animals (pGz-treated and untreated) served as non-diseased controls. At the conclusion of the protocol, cardiomyocytes from untreated dKO animals had, respectively, 4.3-fold and 3.5-fold higher diastolic resting concentration of Ca2+ ([Ca2+]d) and Na+ ([Na+]d) compared to WT, while pGz treatment significantly reduced these levels. For dKO cardiomyocytes, pGz treatment also improved the depressed contractile function, decreased oxidative stress, blunted the elevation in calpain activity, and mitigated the abnormal increase in [Ca2+]d upon mechanical stress. These improvements culminated in a significant reduction in circulating cardiac troponin T (cTnT) and an extension of the median lifespan of dKO mice from 16 to 31weeks. Treatment with L-NAME (NOS inhibitor) significantly decreased overall lifespan and abolished the cardioprotective properties elicited by pGz. Our results provide evidence that enhancement of NO synthesis by pGz can ameliorate cellular dysfunction in dKO cardiomyocytes and may represent a novel therapeutic intervention in DMD cardiomyopathy patients.

Keywords: Cardiac contractile function; Cardiac troponin T; Catalase; Diastolic calcium; Diastolic sodium; Duchenne cardiomyopathy; Dystrophin; L-NAME; Nitric oxide; ROS; Utrophin/dystrophin knockout; Whole body periodic acceleration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calpain / metabolism
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / etiology
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / metabolism
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / pathology
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dystrophin / deficiency*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / complications
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Survival Rate
  • Utrophin / deficiency*


  • Biomarkers
  • Dystrophin
  • Utrophin
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sodium
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Calpain
  • Calcium