Dual Myostatin and Dystrophin Exon Skipping by Morpholino Nucleic Acid Oligomers Conjugated to a Cell-penetrating Peptide Is a Promising Therapeutic Strategy for the Treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
The knockdown of myostatin, a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass may have important implications in disease conditions accompanied by muscle mass loss like cancer, HIV/AIDS, sarcopenia, muscle atrophy, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). In DMD patients, where major muscle loss has occurred due to a lack of dystrophin, the therapeutic restoration of dystrophin expression alone in older patients may not be sufficient to restore the functionality of the muscles. We recently demonstrated that phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) can be used to re-direct myostatin splicing and promote the expression of an out-of-frame transcript so reducing the amount of the synthesized myostatin protein. Furthermore, the systemic administration of the same PMO conjugated to an octaguanidine moiety (Vivo-PMO) led to a significant increase in the mass of soleus muscle of treated mice. Here, we have further optimized the use of Vivo-PMO in normal mice and also tested the efficacy of the same PMO conjugated to an arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptide (B-PMO). Similar experiments conducted in mdx dystrophic mice showed that B-PMO targeting myostatin is able to significantly increase the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle weight and when coadministered with a B-PMO targeting the dystrophin exon 23, it does not have a detrimental interaction. This study confirms that myostatin knockdown by exon skipping is a potential therapeutic strategy to counteract muscle wasting conditions and dual myostatin and dystrophin skipping has potential as a therapy for DMD.