Using a State-of-the-Art Toolbox to Evaluate Molecular and Functional Readouts of Antisense Oligonucleotide-Induced Exon Skipping in mdx Mice

Nucleic Acid Ther. 2020 Feb;30(1):50-65. doi: 10.1089/nat.2019.0824. Epub 2019 Dec 10.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe childhood muscle disease primarily caused by the lack of functional dystrophin at the muscle fiber membranes. Multiple therapeutic approaches are currently in (pre)clinical development, aimed at restoring expression of (truncated) dystrophin. Key questions in this phase relate to route of drug administration, dose regimen, and levels of dystrophin required to improve muscle function. A series of studies applying antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) in the mdx mouse model for DMD has been reported over the last two decades, claiming a variable range of exon skipping and increased dystrophin levels correlated to some functional improvement. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of subcutaneous (SC) versus intravenous (IV) dosing routes of an mdx-specific AON at both the molecular and functional level, using state-of-the-art quantitative technologies, including digital droplet polymerase chain reaction, capillary Western immunoassay, magnetic resonance imaging, and automated kinematic analysis. The majority of all readouts we quantified, both molecular and functional, showed that IV dosing of the AON had a more pronounced beneficial effect than SC dosing in mdx mice. Last, but not least, the more quantitative molecular and functional data obtained in this study suggest that low levels of dystrophin protein of at least 2.5% of wild type may already have a beneficial effect on muscle leakiness and may improve motor performance of mdx mice.

Keywords: MRI; capillary Western immunoassay; digital droplet PCR; exon skipping; kinematic gait analysis; mdx.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exons / drug effects*
  • Exons / genetics
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacology*


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense