Apelin stimulation of the vascular skeletal muscle stem cell niche enhances endogenous repair in dystrophic mice

Sci Transl Med. 2024 Mar 20;16(739):eabn8529. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abn8529. Epub 2024 Mar 20.


Impaired skeletal muscle stem cell (MuSC) function has long been suspected to contribute to the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy (MD). Here, we showed that defects in the endothelial cell (EC) compartment of the vascular stem cell niche in mouse models of Duchenne MD, laminin α2-related MD, and collagen VI-related myopathy were associated with inefficient mobilization of MuSCs after tissue damage. Using chemoinformatic analysis, we identified the 13-amino acid form of the peptide hormone apelin (AP-13) as a candidate for systemic stimulation of skeletal muscle ECs. Systemic administration of AP-13 using osmotic pumps generated a pro-proliferative EC-rich niche that supported MuSC function through angiocrine factors and markedly improved tissue regeneration and muscle strength in all three dystrophic mouse models. Moreover, EC-specific knockout of the apelin receptor led to regenerative defects that phenocopied key pathological features of MD, including vascular defects, fibrosis, muscle fiber necrosis, impaired MuSC function, and reduced force generation. Together, these studies provide in vivo proof of concept that enhancing endogenous skeletal muscle repair by targeting the vascular niche is a viable therapeutic avenue for MD and characterized AP-13 as a candidate for further study for the systemic treatment of MuSC dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apelin / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Niche*


  • Apelin