Cardiac failure is a major cause of mortality in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Antisense-mediated exon skipping has the ability to correct out-of-frame mutations in DMD to produce truncated but functional dystrophin. Traditional antisense approaches have however been limited by their poor uptake into cardiac muscle. The addition of cell-penetrating peptides to antisense molecules has increased their potency and improved their uptake into all muscles, including the heart. We have investigated the efficacy of the Peptide-conjugated phosphodiamidate morpholino oligomer (P-PMO) Pip6a-PMO, for restoration of cardiac dystrophin and functional rescue in DMD mice- the mdx mouse and the less well characterised Cmah-/-mdx mouse (which carry a human-like mutation in the mouse Cmah gene as well as a mutation in DMD). In our first study male mdx mice were administered Pip6a-PMO, i.v, fortnightly from 12 to 30 weeks of age alongside mock-injected age-matched mdx and C57BL10 controls. Mice received 4 doses of 18 mg/kg followed by 8 doses of 12.5 mg/kg. The cardiac function of the mice was analysed 2 weeks after their final injection by MRI followed by conductance catheter and their muscles were harvested for dystrophin quantification. In the second study, male Cmah-/-mdx mice, received 12.5 mg/kg Pip6a-PMO, i.v fortnightly from 8 to 26 weeks and assessed by MRI at 3 time points (12, 18 and 28 weeks) alongside mock-injected age-matched mdx, C57BL10 and Cmah-/-mdx controls. The mice also underwent MEMRI and conductance catheter at 28 weeks. This allowed us to characterise the cardiac phenotype of Cmah-/-mdx mice as well as assess the effects of P-PMO on cardiac function. Pip6a-PMO treatment resulted in significant restoration of dystrophin in mdx and Cmah-/-mdx mice (37.5% and 51.6%, respectively), which was sufficient to significantly improve cardiac function, ameliorating both right and left ventricular dysfunction. Cmah-/-mdx mice showed an abnormal response to dobutamine stress test and this was completely ameliorated by PIP6a-PMO treatment. These encouraging data suggest that total restoration of dystrophin may not be required to significantly improve cardiac outcome in DMD patients and that it may be realistic to expect functional improvements with modest levels of dystrophin restoration which may be very achievable in future clinical trials.
Animals, Cell-Penetrating Peptides, Disease Models, Animal, Dystrophin, Exons, Frameshift Mutation, Heart, Heart Failure, Mice, Mice, Inbred mdx, Morpholinos, Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne, Myocardium