Ectopic PLAG1 induces muscular dystrophy in the mouse

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2023 Jul 12:665:159-168. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2023.05.006. Epub 2023 May 3.


Even though various genetic mutations have been identified in muscular dystrophies (MD), there is still a need to understand the biology of MD in the absence of known mutations. Here we reported a new mouse model of MD driven by ectopic expression of PLAG1. This gene encodes a developmentally regulated transcription factor known to be expressed in developing skeletal muscle, and implicated as an oncogene in certain cancers including rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma composed of myoblast-like cells. By breeding loxP-STOP-loxP-PLAG1 (LSL-PLAG1) mice into the MCK-Cre line, we achieved ectopic PLAG1 expression in cardiac and skeletal muscle. The Cre/PLAG1 mice died before 6 weeks of age with evidence of cardiomyopathy significantly limiting left ventricle fractional shortening. Histology of skeletal muscle revealed dystrophic features, including myofiber necrosis, fiber size variation, frequent centralized nuclei, fatty infiltration, and fibrosis, all of which mimic human MD pathology. QRT-PCR and Western blot revealed modestly decreased Dmd mRNA and dystrophin protein in the dystrophic muscle, and immunofluorescence staining showed decreased dystrophin along the cell membrane. Repression of Dmd by ectopic PLAG1 was confirmed in dystrophic skeletal muscle and various cell culture models. In vitro studies showed that excess IGF2 expression, a transcriptional target of PLAG1, phenocopied PLAG1-mediated down-regulation of dystrophin. In summary, we developed a new mouse model of a lethal MD due to ectopic expression of PLAG1 in heart and skeletal muscle. Our data support the potential contribution of excess IGF2 in this model. Further studying these mice may provide new insights into the pathogenesis of MD and perhaps lead to new treatment strategies.

Keywords: Dmd; IGF2; Muscular dystrophy (MD); PLAG1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dystrophin* / genetics
  • Heart
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Dystrophin
  • Transcription Factors
  • PLAG1 protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Plag1 protein, mouse