Partial Restoration of Brain Dystrophin and Behavioral Deficits by Exon Skipping in the Muscular Dystrophy X-Linked (mdx) Mouse

Ann Neurol. 2022 Aug;92(2):213-229. doi: 10.1002/ana.26409. Epub 2022 Jun 13.


Objectives: Duchenne muscular dystrophy is associated with various degrees of cognitive impairment and behavioral disturbances. Emotional and memory deficits also constitute reliable outcome measures to assess efficacy of treatments in the mdx mouse lacking the muscle and neuronal full-length dystrophins. The present study aimed to evaluate whether these deficits could be alleviated by the restoration of brain dystrophin.

Methods: We performed intracerebroventricular administration of a new potent tricyclo-DNA antisense oligonucleotide (tcDNA-ASO) containing a full phosphodiester backbone conjugated to a palmitic acid moiety (tcDNA-ASO), designed to skip the mutated exon 23 of mdx mice.

Results: We first show that the tcDNA-ASO rescues expression of brain dystrophin to 10-30% of wild-type levels and significantly reduces the abnormal unconditioned fear responses in mdx mice in a dose-dependent manner, 5 weeks post-injection. Exon skipping efficiency, ASO biodistribution, protein restoration and effect on the fear response were optimal with a dose of 400 μg at 6-7 weeks post-injection, with synaptic-like expression in brain tissues such as the hippocampus and amygdala. Furthermore, this dose of tcDNA-ASO restored long-term memory retention of mdx mice in an object recognition task, but only had minor effects on fear conditioning.

Interpretation: These results suggest for the first time that postnatal re-expression of brain dystrophin could reverse or at least alleviate some cognitive deficits associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. ANN NEUROL 2022;92:213-229.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dystrophin* / genetics
  • Dystrophin* / metabolism
  • Exons / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / therapy
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Dystrophin
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense