Introduction: Both genetic and infectious diseases can result in skeletal muscle degeneration, inflammation, pain, and/or weakness. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common congenital muscle disease. DMD causes progressive muscle wasting due to mutations in Dystrophin. Influenza A and B viruses are frequently associated with muscle complications, especially in children. Infections activate an immune response and immunosuppressant drugs reduce DMD symptoms. These data suggest that the immune system may contribute to muscle pathology. However, roles of the immune response in DMD and Influenza muscle complications are not well understood. Zebrafish with dmd mutations are a well-characterized model in which to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms of DMD pathology. We recently showed that zebrafish can be infected by human Influenza A virus (IAV). Thus, the zebrafish is a powerful system with which to ask questions about the etiology and mechanisms of muscle damage due to genetic and/or infectious diseases.
Methods: We infected zebrafish with IAV and assayed muscle tissue structure, sarcolemma integrity, cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) attachment, and molecular and cellular markers of inflammation in response to IAV infection alone or in the context of DMD.
Results: We find that IAV-infected zebrafish display mild muscle degeneration with sarcolemma damage and compromised ECM adhesion. An innate immune response is elicited in muscle in IAV-infected zebrafish: NFkB signaling is activated, pro-inflammatory cytokine expression is upregulated, and neutrophils localize to sites of muscle damage. IAV-infected dmd mutants display more severe muscle damage than would be expected from an additive effect of dmd mutation and IAV infection, suggesting that muscle damage caused by Dystrophin-deficiency and IAV infection is synergistic.
Discussion: These data demonstrate the importance of preventing IAV infections in individuals with genetic muscle diseases. Elucidating the mechanisms of immune-mediated muscle damage will not only apply to DMD and IAV, but also to other conditions where the immune system, inflammation, and muscle tissue are known to be affected, such as autoimmune diseases, cancer, and aging.