Transcriptome changes during the initiation and progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy in Caenorhabditis elegans

Heather C. Hrach, Shannon O'Brien, Hannah S. Steber, Jason Newbern, Alan Rawls, Marco Mangone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal, X-linked disease characterized by progressive muscle degeneration. The condition is driven by nonsense and missense mutations in the dystrophin gene, leading to instability of the sarcolemma and skeletal muscle necrosis and atrophy. Resulting changes in muscle-specific gene expression that take place in dystrophin's absence remain largely uncharacterized, as they are potentially obscured by the chronic inflammation elicited by muscle damage in humans. Caenorhabditis elegans possess a mild inflammatory response that is not active in the muscle, and lack a satellite cell equivalent. This allows for the characterization of the transcriptome rearrangements affecting disease progression independently of inflammation and regeneration. In effort to better understand these dynamics, we have isolated and sequenced body muscle-specific transcriptomes from C. elegans lacking functional dystrophin at distinct stages of disease progression. We have identified an upregulation of genes involved in mitochondrial function early in disease progression, and an upregulation of genes related to muscle repair in later stages. Our results suggest that in C. elegans, dystrophin may have a signaling role early in development, and its absence may activate compensatory mechanisms that counteract muscle degradation caused by loss of dystrophin. We have also developed a temperature-based screening method for synthetic paralysis that can be used to rapidly identify genetic partners of dystrophin. Our results allow for the comprehensive identification of transcriptome changes that potentially serve as independent drivers of disease progression and may in turn allow for the identification of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of DMD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1623
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jun 27 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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