The dy/dy mouse is an animal model for human merosin-negative congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD), which has been reported to have reduced or no expression of the basement membrane protein laminin alpha2. We here investigate various myogenic and nonmyogenic tissues of mature dy/dy and control 129ReJ mice histologically and for laminin alpha2 expression. In addition, expression patterns of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, the interstitial proteins fibronectin and tenascin-C, and the adhesion molecules VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and alpha4 integrin were characterized in skeletal muscle of 1- and 7-day and mature (>6 weeks old) dy/dy and control 129ReJ mice. The laminin alpha2 chain remained detectable in myogenic tissues of dy/dy mice by immunofluorescence using two different monoclonal antibodies and by Northern blot analysis. However, laminin alpha2 expression was significantly reduced or not detectable in nonmyogenic tissues of dy/dy mice, including skin, lung, kidney, brain, thymus, and eye. Focal lesions were observed in mature skeletal muscle only, characterized by necrotic tissue, isolated VCAM-1- and ICAM-1-positive cells indicative of inflammatory processes, and regenerating muscle fibers surrounded by intense tenascin-C and fibronectin expression. In contrast to studies on human CMD muscle, laminin alpha1 was not detectable in either dy/dy or control skeletal muscle using immunofluorescence or Northern blot analysis. Immunofluorescence localized laminin alpha4 to basement membranes of blood vessels, the endoneurium of the intramuscular nerves, and the neuromuscular junction in skeletal muscle of 1- and 7-day-old dy/dy and control mice. In mature muscle, laminin alpha4 expression shifted to the perineurium of intramuscular nerves in both dy/dy and control mice. Furthermore, strong upregulation of laminin alpha4 in the basement membranes of blood vessels, the perineurium of intramuscular nerves, and of isolated regenerating muscle fibers in the dy/dy mice was apparent. Investigation of 1-day-old animals revealed expression of laminin alpha5 in skeletal muscle fiber basement membranes of dy/dy but not control animals. This difference between dy/dy and control animals was no longer apparent at 7 days after birth, indicating a temporary shift in expression pattern of laminin alpha5 in dy/dy animals. Analysis of the extracellular matrix components of 1- and 7-day-old dy/dy and control skeletal muscle revealed an early onset of the dystrophy, even before histopathological features of the disease were evident. Our data confirm the absence of laminin alpha1 chain in myogenic tissues of both dy/dy and control mice and suggest compensation for reduced laminin alpha2 in dy/dy skeletal muscle by laminin alpha4 and, in early development, also laminin alpha5. These results have significant ramifications in the diagnosis of human merosin-negative CMD.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.