CRISPR/Cas9 editing of directly reprogrammed myogenic progenitors restores dystrophin expression in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy

Stem Cell Reports. 2021 Dec 21;S2213-6711(21)00642-1. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2021.12.003. Online ahead of print.


Genetic mutations in dystrophin manifest in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most commonly inherited muscle disease. Here, we report on reprogramming of fibroblasts from two DMD mouse models into induced myogenic progenitor cells (iMPCs) by MyoD overexpression in concert with small molecule treatment. DMD iMPCs proliferate extensively, while expressing myogenic stem cell markers including Pax7 and Myf5. Additionally, DMD iMPCs readily give rise to multinucleated myofibers that express mature skeletal muscle markers; however, they lack DYSTROPHIN expression. Utilizing an exon skipping-based approach with CRISPR/Cas9, we report on genetic correction of the dystrophin mutation in DMD iMPCs and restoration of protein expression in vitro. Furthermore, engraftment of corrected DMD iMPCs into the muscles of dystrophic mice restored DYSTROPHIN expression and contributed to the muscle stem cell reservoir. Collectively, our findings report on a novel in vitro cellular model for DMD and utilize it in conjunction with gene editing to restore DYSTROPHIN expression in vivo.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9 editing of myogenic stem cells; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; direct lineage reprogramming; stem-cell-based therapy.