Targeted expression of heme oxygenase-1 in satellite cells improves skeletal muscle pathology in dystrophic mice

Skelet Muscle. 2024 Jun 12;14(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s13395-024-00346-2.


Background: Adult muscle-resident myogenic stem cells, satellite cells (SCs), that play non-redundant role in muscle regeneration, are intrinsically impaired in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Previously we revealed that dystrophic SCs express low level of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1, HMOX1). Here we assess whether targeted induction of HMOX1 affect SC function and alleviates hallmark symptoms of DMD.

Methods: We generated double-transgenic mouse model (mdx;HMOX1Pax7Ind) that allows tamoxifen (TX)-inducible HMOX1 expression in Pax7 positive cells of dystrophic muscles. Mdx;HMOX1Pax7Ind and control mdx mice were subjected to 5-day TX injections (75 mg/kg b.w.) followed by acute exercise protocol with high-speed treadmill (12 m/min, 45 min) and downhill running to worsen skeletal muscle phenotype and reveal immediate effects of HO-1 on muscle pathology and SC function.

Results: HMOX1 induction caused a drop in SC pool in mdx;HMOX1Pax7Ind mice (vs. mdx counterparts), while not exaggerating the effect of physical exercise. Upon physical exercise, the proliferation of SCs and activated CD34- SC subpopulation, was impaired in mdx mice, an effect that was reversed in mdx;HMOX1Pax7Ind mice, however, both in vehicle- and TX-treated animals. This corresponded to the pattern of HO-1 expression in skeletal muscles. At the tissue level, necrotic events of selective skeletal muscles of mdx mice and associated increase in circulating levels of muscle damage markers were blunted in HO-1 transgenic animals which showed also anti-inflammatory cytokine profile (vs. mdx).

Conclusions: Targeted expression of HMOX1 plays protective role in DMD and alleviates dystrophic muscle pathology.

Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Heme oxygenase-1; Satellite cells; Skeletal muscle regeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Heme Oxygenase-1* / genetics
  • Heme Oxygenase-1* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred mdx*
  • Mice, Transgenic*
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / pathology
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Satellite Cells, Skeletal Muscle* / metabolism


  • Heme Oxygenase-1
  • Hmox1 protein, mouse
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor
  • Pax7 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins