Thrombospondin-1 mediates muscle damage in brachio-cervical inflammatory myopathy and systemic sclerosis

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 Mar 6;7(3):e694. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000694. Print 2020 May.


Objective: To describe the clinical, serologic and histologic features of a cohort of patients with brachio-cervical inflammatory myopathy (BCIM) associated with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and unravel disease-specific pathophysiologic mechanisms occurring in these patients.

Methods: We reviewed clinical, immunologic, muscle MRI, nailfold videocapillaroscopy, muscle biopsy, and response to treatment data from 8 patients with BCIM-SSc. We compared cytokine profiles between patients with BCIM-SSc and SSc without muscle involvement and controls. We analyzed the effect of the deregulated cytokines in vitro (fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and muscle cells) and in vivo.

Results: All patients with BCIM-SSc presented with muscle weakness involving cervical and proximal muscles of the upper limbs plus Raynaud syndrome, telangiectasia and/or sclerodactilia, hypotonia of the esophagus, and interstitial lung disease. Immunosuppressive treatment stopped the progression of the disease. Muscle biopsy showed pathologic changes including the presence of necrotic fibers, fibrosis, and reduced capillary number and size. Cytokines involved in inflammation, angiogenesis, and fibrosis were deregulated. Thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1), which participates in all these 3 processes, was upregulated in patients with BCIM-SSc. In vitro, TSP-1 and serum of patients with BCIM-SSc promoted proliferation and upregulation of collagen, fibronectin, and transforming growth factor beta in fibroblasts. TSP-1 disrupted vascular network, decreased muscle differentiation, and promoted hypotrophic myotubes. In vivo, TSP-1 increased fibrotic tissue and profibrotic macrophage infiltration in the muscle.

Conclusions: Patients with SSc may present with a clinically and pathologically distinct myopathy. A prompt and correct diagnosis has important implications for treatment. Finally, TSP-1 may participate in the pathologic changes observed in muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Weakness* / immunology
  • Muscle Weakness* / metabolism
  • Muscle Weakness* / pathology
  • Muscle Weakness* / physiopathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiopathology
  • Myositis* / immunology
  • Myositis* / metabolism
  • Myositis* / pathology
  • Myositis* / physiopathology
  • Neck Muscles / immunology
  • Neck Muscles / metabolism
  • Neck Muscles / pathology
  • Neck Muscles / physiopathology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / immunology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / metabolism
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / pathology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / physiopathology
  • Thrombospondin 1 / metabolism*


  • Thrombospondin 1