Duchenne muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is an inherited disease caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene that disrupt the open reading frame, while in frame mutations result in Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy (UCMD) is due to mutations affecting collagen VI genes. Specific muscle miRNAs (dystromirs) are potential noninvasive biomarkers for monitoring the outcome of therapeutic interventions and disease progression. We quantified miR-1, miR-133a,b, miR-206 and miR-31 in serum from patients with DMD, BMD, UCMD and healthy controls. MiR-1, miR-133a,b and miR-206 were upregulated in DMD, but unchanged in UCMD compared to controls. Milder DMD patients had higher levels of dystromirs than more severely affected patients. Patients with low forced vital capacity (FVC) values, indicating respiratory muscle weakness, had low levels of serum miR-1 and miR-133b. There was no significant difference in the level of the dystromirs in BMD compared to controls. We also assessed the effect of dystrophin restoration on the expression of the five dystromirs in serum of DMD patients treated systemically for 12 weeks with antisense oligomer eteplirsen that induces skipping of exon 51 in the dystrophin gene. The dystromirs were also analysed in muscle biopsies of DMD patients included in a single dose intramuscular eteplirsen clinical trial. Our analysis detected a trend towards normalization of these miRNA between the pre- and post-treatment samples of the systemic trial, which however failed to reach statistical significance. This could possibly be due to the small number of patients and the short duration of these clinical trials. Although longer term studies are needed to clarify the relationship between dystrophin restoration following therapeutic intervention and the level of circulating miRNAs, our results indicate that miR-1 and miR-133 can be considered as exploratory biomarkers for monitoring the progression of muscle weakness and indirectly the remaining muscle mass in DMD. © 2013 Zaharieva et al.
Zaharieva, I. T., Calissano, M., Scoto, M., Preston, M., Cirak, S., Feng, L., … Muntoni, F. (2013). Dystromirs as serum biomarkers for monitoring the disease severity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080263