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Laminin-111 Protein Therapy Reduces Muscle Pathology and Improves Viability of a Mouse Model of Merosin-Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

Open AccessPublished:February 10, 2012DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.12.019
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A (MDC1A) is a lethal muscle-wasting disease that is caused by mutations in the LAMA2 gene, resulting in the loss of laminin-α2 protein. MDC1A patients exhibit severe muscle weakness from birth, are confined to a wheelchair, require ventilator assistance, and have reduced life expectancy. There are currently no effective treatments or cures for MDC1A. Laminin-α2 is required for the formation of heterotrimeric laminin-211 (ie, α2, β1, and γ1) and laminin-221 (ie, α2, β2, and γ1), which are major constituents of skeletal muscle basal lamina. Laminin-111 (ie, α1, β1, and γ1) is the predominant laminin isoform in embryonic skeletal muscle and supports normal skeletal muscle development in laminin-α2–deficient muscle but is absent from adult skeletal muscle. In this study, we determined whether treatment with Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm–derived mouse laminin-111 protein could rescue MDC1A in the dyW−/− mouse model. We demonstrate that laminin-111 protein systemically delivered to the muscles of laminin-α2–deficient mice prevents muscle pathology, improves muscle strength, and dramatically increases life expectancy. Laminin-111 also prevented apoptosis in laminin-α2–deficient mouse muscle and primary human MDC1A myogenic cells, which indicates a conserved mechanism of action and cross-reactivity between species. Our results demonstrate that laminin-111 can serve as an effective protein substitution therapy for the treatment of muscular dystrophy in the dyW−/− mouse model and establish the potential for its use in the treatment of MDC1A.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A (MDC1A) is a devastating neuromuscular disease with patients exhibiting profound hypotonia from birth, developmental delay, and dysmyelinating neuropathy.
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      Laminins during muscle development and in muscular dystrophies.
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      Laminin chains in developing and adult human myotendinous junctions.
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      Expression of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, fibronectin, and tenascin-C in skeletal muscle of dystrophic 129ReJ dy/dy mice.
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      Expression of laminin isoforms in mouse myogenic cells in vitro and in vivo.
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      Expression and distribution of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains in embryonic and adult mouse tissues: an immunochemical approach.
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      The role of laminins in basement membrane function.
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      Distribution and function of laminins in the neuromuscular system of developing, adult, and mutant mice.
      Laminin-211 (α2, β1, γ1) and laminin-221 (α2, β2, γ1) replace laminin-111 to become the predominant laminin isoforms in adult skeletal muscle.
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      • Tiger C.F.
      • Velling T.
      Laminins during muscle development and in muscular dystrophies.
      • Pedrosa-Domellof F.
      • Tiger C.F.
      • Virtanen I.
      • Thornell L.E.
      • Gullberg D.
      Laminin chains in developing and adult human myotendinous junctions.
      • Ringelmann B.
      • Roder C.
      • Hallmann R.
      • Maley M.
      • Davies M.
      • Grounds M.
      • Sorokin L.
      Expression of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, fibronectin, and tenascin-C in skeletal muscle of dystrophic 129ReJ dy/dy mice.
      • Schuler F.
      • Sorokin L.M.
      Expression of laminin isoforms in mouse myogenic cells in vitro and in vivo.
      • Sasaki T.
      • Giltay R.
      • Talts U.
      • Timpl R.
      • Talts J.F.
      Expression and distribution of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains in embryonic and adult mouse tissues: an immunochemical approach.
      • Aumailley M.
      • Smyth N.
      The role of laminins in basement membrane function.
      • Patton B.L.
      • Miner J.H.
      • Chiu A.Y.
      • Sanes J.R.
      Distribution and function of laminins in the neuromuscular system of developing, adult, and mutant mice.
      Laminin-211 anchors myofibers to the extrajunctional basement membrane and is an important component of peripheral nerve basement membrane.
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      • Giltay R.
      • Talts U.
      • Timpl R.
      • Talts J.F.
      Expression and distribution of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains in embryonic and adult mouse tissues: an immunochemical approach.
      Laminin-221 is enriched at neuromuscular junctions and promotes efficient neurotransmission.
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      A synaptic localization domain in the synaptic cleft protein laminin beta 2 (s-laminin).
      The loss of laminin-211/221 in MDC1A patients and mouse models results in poor myofiber adhesion, increased sarcolemmal fragility. and sensitivity to apoptosis.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
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      Activation of the lama2 gene in muscle regeneration: abortive regeneration in laminin alpha2-deficiency.
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      Merosin and laminin in myogenesis; specific requirement for merosin in myotube stability and survival.
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      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
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      Integrins (alpha7beta1) in muscle function and survival Disrupted expression in merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
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      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
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      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Yablonka-Reuveni Z.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 restores regenerative capacity in a mouse model for alpha7 integrin congenital myopathy.
      Defective muscle regeneration and myofiber loss are also observed in laminin-α2–deficient myofibers indicating that the laminin composition in the extracellular matrix plays a critical role in muscle maintenance.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vilquin J.T.
      • Engvall E.
      Activation of the lama2 gene in muscle regeneration: abortive regeneration in laminin alpha2-deficiency.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Loechel F.
      • Xu H.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin and laminin in myogenesis; specific requirement for merosin in myotube stability and survival.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Xu H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Hayashi Y.
      • Arahata K.
      • Reed J.C.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Integrins (alpha7beta1) in muscle function and survival Disrupted expression in merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Yablonka-Reuveni Z.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 restores regenerative capacity in a mouse model for alpha7 integrin congenital myopathy.
      Previous studies have shown laminin-111 protein therapy can prevent muscle disease and improve myogenic engraftment in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Goudenege S.
      • Lamarre Y.
      • Dumont N.
      • Rousseau J.
      • Frenette J.
      • Skuk D.
      • Tremblay J.P.
      Laminin-111: a potential therapeutic agent for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 protein therapy prevents muscle disease in the mdx mouse model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      Since muscle development in MDC1A patients and laminin-α2 deficient mice proceeds normally due to the presence of laminin-111, we tested the hypothesis that laminin-111 could serve as an effective protein substitution therapy for laminin-α2 deficiency. Our study demonstrates laminin-111 protein can be systemically delivered to the basal lamina of skeletal muscle and the presence of laminin-111 reduced the biochemical, histological, and functional deficits associated with the loss of laminin-211/221. We also demonstrate that laminin-111 prevents apoptosis in primary myogenic cells from MDC1A patients. These results show laminin-111 can serve as a potent protein substitution therapy in dyW−/− mice and suggests that recombinant human laminin-111 may become an important new protein therapeutic for the treatment of MDC1A.

      Materials and Methods

      Mice and Human Myogenic Cell Lines

      The dyW−/− mice were maintained on the same genetic background as previously described.
      • Xu R.
      • Chandrasekharan K.
      • Yoon J.H.
      • Camboni M.
      • Martin P.T.
      Overexpression of the cytotoxic T cell (CT) carbohydrate inhibits muscular dystrophy in the dyW mouse model of congenital muscular dystrophy 1A.
      Animal experiments were performed under an approved institutional animal care and use committee protocol. De-identified primary myoblast cell lines from MDC1A and control patients were obtained from Dr. Kathryn North, Children's Hospital at Westmead and University of Sydney. Research using human primary myogenic cells was performed under an approved institutional review board protocol from the University of Nevada, Reno, Office of Human Research Protection.

      Laminin-111

      Laminin-111 (Sigma, St. Louis, MO) was slowly thawed overnight at 4°C. Mice were treated with intramuscular (i.m.) or intraperitoneal (i.p.) injections with Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS)-derived natural mouse laminin-111. For intramuscular injections, the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle was injected once with 100 μL of a 1.0 mg/mL solution of laminin-111. For systemic injections, dyW−/− mice were injected i.p. with 1.0 mg/mL laminin-111 at 10.0 mg/kg per week for the duration of their lives.

      Immunofluorescence

      Tricep muscles were embedded in OCT and cryosectioned as previously described.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 protein therapy prevents muscle disease in the mdx mouse model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      Laminin-α2 was detected with a 1:500 dilution of rabbit anti-laminin-α2 (2G) polyclonal antibody (a kind gift from Peter Yurchenco, Department of Pathology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ). A rat anti-mouse laminin-α1 monoclonal antibody (MAB1903; Chemicon International, Temecula, CA) was used to detect mouse laminin-α1. Collagen VI was detected using a rabbit polyclonal antibody (AB6588; Abcam, Cambridge, MA) at 1:10,000. Primary rabbit and rat antibodies were detected with a 1:500 dilution of fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated anti-rabbit or FITC-conjugated anti-rat secondary antibodies, redundant with previous phraseredundant with previous phrase respectively. Secondary-only antibody controls were included to test for specificity. Fluorescence was observed with a Zeiss Axioskop 2 Plus fluorescent microscope, and images were captured with a Zeiss AxioCamHRc digital camera and Axiovision 4.1 software (Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, Germany).

      Immunoblot Detection of Laminin-α1

      Mice were treated weekly with 10.0 mg/kg/week laminin-111 starting at 10 days of age. Serum was collected by tail vein bleed at 8 weeks of age. TA muscles harvested from 10-week-old animals were pulverized with a liquid nitrogen–cooled mortar and pestle, and proteins were extracted in radioimmunoprecipitation assay buffer [50 mmol/L HEPES (pH 7.4), 150 mmol/L NaCl, 1 mmol/L Na3VO4, 10 mmol/L NaF, 0.5% Triton X-100, 0.5% NP50, 10% glycerol, 2 mmol/L PMSF, and a 1:200 dilution of Protease Inhibitor Cocktail Set III, Calbiochem, San Diego, CA]. Protein concentrations were quantified using a Bradford assay (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA), and reduced samples (10 μg of tissue and 12 μL of serum) were separated on a 6% polyacrylamide gel and transferred to nitrocellulose. Laminin-α1 was detected with a 1:1000 dilution of rat anti-mouse laminin-α1 monoclonal antibody (MAB1903; Chemicon International, Temecula, CA) overnight followed by a goat anti–rat-IgG secondary antibody (1:5000; Li-Cor Biosciences, Lincoln, NE) for 1 hour. The blot was imaged with an Odyssey Imaging System (Li-Cor Biosciences). Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm–derived natural mouse laminin-111 from Sigma was used as a positive control (0.5 μg).

      Histology

      TA and tricep muscles were embedded in OCT and 10-μm cryosections (≥50 μm apart) were cut using a CM1850 cryostat (Leica, Wetzlar, Germany) and placed on microscope slides (Surgipath Medical Industries, Richmond, IL). Tissue sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) as previously described.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 protein therapy prevents muscle disease in the mdx mouse model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      Central myonuclei in regenerating muscles were counted at ×630 magnification by bright-field microscopy. The number of central nuclei per muscle fiber was determined by counting a minimum of 500 muscle fibers per animal. At least five animals from each genotype were analyzed. In addition, the cross-sectional areas were quantified from a minimum of 5000 muscle fibers per group per time point. Results are reported as the average myofiber cross-sectional area.

      Masson's Trichrome Staining

      Paraffin-embedded tricep muscles were sectioned and stained using a Masson's Trichrome Staining Kit (American Master Tech Scientific, Lodi, CA). Images were captured at ×400 magnification under bright field using a Zeiss Axioskop 2 Plus fluorescent microscope, and images were captured with Zeiss AxioCamHRc digital camera and Axiovision 4.1 software.

      Evan's Blue Dye Assay

      Mice received 50 μL (i.p.) of a 10.0 mg/mL solution of sterile Evans Blue dye in sterile PBS per 10 g of body weight intraperitoneally. Tricep muscles were harvested and flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen 3 hours later. Ten-micrometer cryosections were placed on microscope slides and fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde. Muscle fibers were outlined by incubating tissue sections with Oregon Green-488–conjugated WGA (2 μg/mL; Molecular Probes, Carlsbad, CA). A minimum of 500 fibers per animal were counted to determine the percentage of muscle fibers positive for Evans Blue dye. At least four animals from each genotype were analyzed. Images were captured and counted at ×630 magnification.

      Inflammatory Cell Infiltration

      Cytotoxic T cells, monocytes, and macrophages were detected with a FITC-conjugated rat anti-mouse CD8a, CD11b antibodies (BD Pharmingen, San Diego, CA) or a FITC-conjugated anti-mouse F4/80 (Bioscience, San Diego, CA). Ten-micrometer sections were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde for 5 minutes, washed in PBS three times for 5 minutes each, blocked with 5% bovine serum albumin/PBS for 1 hour, incubated with anti-CD8 antibody, anti-F4/80, and anti-mouse F4/80 at 1:1000 dilution for 1 hour, and washed in 1% bovine serum albumin/PBS three times for 5 minutes each. The sections were mounted in Vectashield containing DAPI (Vector Laboratories, Burlingame, CA). The ratio of the number of positively labeled cells to the total number of nuclei was calculated for 20 random, nonoverlapping microscopic fields per animal at ×630 magnification and then averaged.

      Hydroxyproline Assay

      Hydroxyproline content was used to measure fibrosis in diaphragm muscle as previously described.
      • Reddy G.K.
      • Enwemeka C.S.
      A simplified method for the analysis of hydroxyproline in biological tissues.
      Briefly, diaphragm muscles were weighed before being acid hydrolyzed at 130°C for 12 hours in 5N HCl (10 mg muscle wet weight/mL). Triplicates of each sample and standard hydroxyproline solution were used for the assay. Samples and standards were mixed with an equal volume of sodium hydroxide (2N final concentration) and hydrolyzed by autoclave at 120°C for 20 minutes. Oxidation was performed at room temperature for 25 minutes by adding 450 μL of chloramine-T to each sample and mixing gently. The chromophore was developed by adding 500 μL of Ehrlich's aldehyde reagent to each sample and incubating the samples at 65°C for 20 minutes. Absorbance was read at 550 nm using a spectrophotometer, and the hydroxyproline content of each sample was calculated using the standard hydroxyproline curve and data analyzed using GraphPad Prism (GraphPad Software, La Jolla, CA).

      Apoptosis

      Apoptosis in muscle was measured using a terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling kit (TUNEL) (DeadEnd Fluorometric TUNEL System; Promega, Madison, WI) following the manufacturer's instructions. The number of apoptotic myonuclei and total nuclei were counted in 10-μm tricep tissue sections. The percentage of TUNEL-positive nuclei per ×630 magnification field was calculated per mouse and averaged for each genotype.
      Apoptosis in primary myogenic cells from normal and MDC1A patients were examined using a TUNEL assay. Differentiating cultures of laminin-α2–deficient and normal human myoblast cells on 1% gelatin–coated Lab-Tek eight-well chamber slides (Nalge-Nunc International, Penfield, NY) were exposed to 100 nmol/L of mouse laminin-111 or 50 nmol/L human laminin-111 for 120 hours. After 120 hours, the DeadEnd Fluorometric TUNEL assay (Promega, Madison, WI) was used to label apoptotic nuclei, following the manufacturer's instructions. The number of apoptotic nuclei in each chamber was counted in quadruplicate and expressed as a percentage of total nuclei.

      Grip Strength

      The forelimb grip strength was assessed using a SDI Grip Strength System and a Chatillon DFE Digital Force Gauge (San Diego Instruments, San Diego, CA) as previously described.
      • Welser J.V.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Cohen N.C.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Singer C.A.
      • Evans R.A.
      • Haines B.A.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Myotendinous junction defects and reduced force transmission in mice that lack alpha7 integrin and utrophin.
      Mice were allowed to grasp a horizontal platform with their forelimbs and then pulled backwards. Six consecutive tests were performed for each mouse, and the peak tension (grams of force) was recorded and data averaged.

      Detection of Antibodies to EHS LAM-111

      Mouse antibodies against EHS laminin-111 (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Laminin-111 was diluted in coat buffer (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA), incubated overnight at 4°C in a 96-well plate, and blocked with Tris-buffered saline containing 5% dry milk. Sera were diluted 1:100 through 1:6400 in Tris-buffered saline and added to duplicate wells. Negative controls consisted of Tris-buffered saline and sera from saline-treated and untreated mice. Positive controls consisted of mouse sera previously identified as having an anti-EHS laminin-111 titer. Mouse anti-laminin-111 antibody was detected with biotin-conjugated goat anti-mouse Fab-specific IgG (1:20,000; Sigma) and streptavidin-HRP (1:5000, Thermo Fisher Scientific). All incubations were for 1 hour at room temperature followed by three washes of Tris-buffered saline, 0.1% Tween-20. Following color development (1-step TMB Turbo; Thermo Fisher Scientific) the absorbance at 450 nm was measured on a Bio-Mark microplate reader (Bio-Rad). The mouse anti–laminin-111 titer was calculated as the dilution of sera at which the absorbance at 450 nm was equivalent to that of saline-treated or untreated mice.

      Survival and Weight Analysis

      Female mice were allowed to age with frequent monitoring for weight loss and/or any signs of pain, distress, or illness. Due to the hindlimb neuropathy, fresh kibble was placed on the base of each cage to ensure all animals were able to feed. Weight loss of >10% over a 1-week period was considered a terminal sign, and animals were humanely euthanized.

      Activity Assays

      Mobility assessments were made at 5, 10, 15, and 20 weeks of age. Mice were singly placed in a clean cage and monitored for 5 minutes. During this time, periods of moving about the cage, standing up on hind paws, and digging were considered times of activity. The number of stand ups was also recorded at this time for all animals that were physically capable.

      Statistical Analysis

      Survival data from wild-type, PBS- and laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice were analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method. Survival curves were generated by GraphPad Prism (GraphPad Software) and data compared using log-rank (Mandel-Cox) statistical tests. Comparisons between multiple groups were performed by one-way analysis of variance for parametric data or by Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance on ranks for nonparametric data using SigmaStat1.0 software (Jandel Corp., San Rafael, CA). A P value <0.05 was considered statistically significant. All averaged data are reported as the mean ± SD.

      Results

      Laminin-111 Protein Can Be Systemically Delivered to Muscle and Restores Viability to Laminin-α2–Deficient Mice

      To investigate whether laminin-111 can substitute for the loss of laminin-211/221, we first determined whether laminin-111 protein could be delivered to the muscle of dyW−/− mice. Five-week-old female wild-type and dyW−/− mice were injected intraperitoneally with PBS or laminin-111 at 10.0 mg/kg per week, and the presence of laminin-α1 and laminin-α2 in the TA muscle was examined by immunofluorescence. As expected, significant levels of laminin-α2 were found in the TA muscle of wild-type mice but were completely absent in PBS- and laminin-111–treated dyW−/− muscle (Figure 1A). Laminin-111 is only found during embryonic muscle development and is not found in adult muscle.
      • Gullberg D.
      • Tiger C.F.
      • Velling T.
      Laminins during muscle development and in muscular dystrophies.
      • Pedrosa-Domellof F.
      • Tiger C.F.
      • Virtanen I.
      • Thornell L.E.
      • Gullberg D.
      Laminin chains in developing and adult human myotendinous junctions.
      • Ringelmann B.
      • Roder C.
      • Hallmann R.
      • Maley M.
      • Davies M.
      • Grounds M.
      • Sorokin L.
      Expression of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, fibronectin, and tenascin-C in skeletal muscle of dystrophic 129ReJ dy/dy mice.
      • Schuler F.
      • Sorokin L.M.
      Expression of laminin isoforms in mouse myogenic cells in vitro and in vivo.
      • Sasaki T.
      • Giltay R.
      • Talts U.
      • Timpl R.
      • Talts J.F.
      Expression and distribution of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains in embryonic and adult mouse tissues: an immunochemical approach.
      • Aumailley M.
      • Smyth N.
      The role of laminins in basement membrane function.
      • Patton B.L.
      • Miner J.H.
      • Chiu A.Y.
      • Sanes J.R.
      Distribution and function of laminins in the neuromuscular system of developing, adult, and mutant mice.
      Immunofluorescence using anti–laminin-α1 revealed that wild-type and dyW−/− muscle treated with PBS contained no laminin-α1. By contrast, the skeletal muscle of dyW−/− mice that received intraperitoneal injections of laminin-111 were strongly positive for laminin-α1 (Figure 1A), confirming that laminin-111 protein can be delivered to the muscle of dyW−/− mice via systemic intraperitoneal administration.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Laminin-111 (LAM-111) can be systemically delivered to laminin-α2–deficient muscle. A: Immunofluorescence of TA muscle from 5-week-old wild-type mice, and dyW−/− mice treated with PBS or 10.0 mg/kg/week laminin-111 to detect laminin-α1 and -α2 proteins. Laminin-α2 is detected within the extracellular matrix of wild-type mice but absent from the muscle of dyW−/− mice treated with PBS or laminin-111. Laminin-α1 is absent in the TA muscle of wild-type and dyW−/− mice but present in the extracellular matrix of laminin-111–treated dyW−/− animals. Scale bar = 20 µm. B: Immunoblot detection of the laminin-α1 protein in wild-type mice, and dyW−/− mice treated with PBS or laminin-111 demonstrated that a 400-kDa laminin-α1 band was only found in the serum and TA muscle of dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111. Laminin-α1 was not detected in serum or muscle of wild-type or PBS-treated dyW−/− mice.
      Immunoblot detection of the laminin-α1 protein in wild-type mice, and dyW−/− mice treated with PBS or laminin-111 demonstrated that a 400-kDa laminin-α1 band was only found in the serum and TA muscle of dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 (Figure 1B). Laminin-α1 was not detected in serum or muscle of wild-type or PBS-treated dyW−/− mice. The laminin-α1 remained predominantly intact, but fragments of immunoreactive material could be seen on long exposures and by Coomassie Blue staining (data not shown). This result suggests that the 900-kDa molecular weight of laminin-111 is not a barrier to systemic distribution, and laminin-111 that is resident in skeletal muscle is resistant to proteolytic degradation.
      To determine whether treatment with laminin-111 protein can restore viability of laminin-α2–deficient mice, the longevity of female wild-type mice and dyW−/− mice treated weekly with PBS or 10.0 mg/kg natural mouse laminin-111 were subjected to Kaplan-Meier survival analysis (Figure 2A). Although wild-type mice had a normal life expectancy, the median survival of dyW−/− mice treated with PBS was 82.5 days, with the oldest animals surviving to 140 days of age (Figure 2A). In dramatic contrast, dyW−/− mice injected weekly with 10.0 mg/kg laminin-111 had a median survival of 291.5 days, representing a 3.5-fold increase in life expectancy. The oldest laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mouse survived beyond 18 months of age (Figure 2A). Laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice also displayed an improved outward appearance (Figure 2B). These results indicate that laminin-111 can significantly extend the life expectancy and appearance of the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Laminin-111 (LAM-111) improves survival of dyW−/− mice. A: Kaplan-Meier survival analysis of wild-type mice (n = 10), dyW−/− mice treated with PBS (n = 20), and dyW−/− mice treated weekly with laminin-111 (n = 10). Treatment with laminin-111 increases survival of dyW−/− mice by 3.5-fold (P < 0.0001). B: Image of a 10-week-old dyW−/− mouse treated with PBS shows weight loss, loss of grooming, joint contractures, and peripheral neuropathy. A 10-week-old dyW−/− mouse treated weekly with 10.0 mg/kg laminin-111 is groomed, does not exhibit joint contractures, maintains weight, and shows reduced peripheral neuropathy. A dyW−/− mouse treated weekly with laminin-111 at 60 weeks of age is groomed, maintains weight, and shows little signs of peripheral neuropathy.

      Laminin-111 Protein Therapy Improves Mobility and Muscle Strength in Laminin-α2–Deficient Mice

      To examine whether laminin-111 treatment prevented the weight loss associated with laminin-α2 deficiency, body weights were assessed at 5, 10, 15, and 20 weeks of age (Figure 3A). Compared to wild-type mice, dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibited a progressive reduction in body weight at all ages (Figure 3A). Compared to wild-type animals, laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice also exhibited lower body weights at all ages, yet more effectively maintained their weight compared to PBS-treated dyW−/− mice (Figure 3A).
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Laminin-111 (LAM-111) improves muscle strength and activity of the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A. A: Compared to PBS treatment, dyW−/− mice treated weekly with laminin-111 more effectively maintained their body weight. B: The number of stand ups over a 5-minute period in a new cage is reduced in dyW−/− mice treated with PBS compared to wild-type mice from 5 to 20 weeks of age. Stand ups are increased in laminin-111–treated dyW−/− animals compared to PBS treatment from 5 to 20 weeks of age. C: Forelimb muscle strength is reduced in dyW−/− mice treated with PBS compared to wild-type mice from 5 to 20 weeks of age. Forelimb muscle strength is maintained at a higher level in dyW−/− mice treated weekly with laminin-111. D: Overall activity in a 5-minute period is reduced in dyW−/− mice treated with PBS compared to wild-type mice. Activity of dyW−/− mice treated weekly with laminin-111 is significantly improved compared to PBS-treated animals. *P < 0.05. Wild type: n = 10; dyW−/−+PBS: 5 and 10 weeks n = 10, 15 weeks n = 5, 20 weeks n = 3; dyW−/−+LAM-111: 5 and 10 weeks n = 10, 15 and 20 weeks n = 9.
      The loss of laminin-221/221 in dyW−/− mice can result in reduced mobility.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      • Allamand V.
      • Guicheney P.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy, autosomal recessive (MDC1A. MIM#156225, LAMA2 gene coding for alpha2 chain of laminin).
      • Gawlik K.
      • Miyagoe-Suzuki Y.
      • Ekblom P.
      • Takeda S.
      • Durbeej M.
      Laminin alpha1 chain reduces muscular dystrophy in laminin alpha2 chain deficient mice.
      Analysis of the average number of stand ups over a 5-minute period showed that 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-week-old dyW−/− mice treated with PBS displayed a 4.3-, 3.4-, 3.6-, and sixfold reduction, respectively, in stand-up activity compared to wild-type mice (Figure 3B). In comparison, 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-week-old dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 demonstrated a 1.9-, 1.4-, 2.3-, and 2.7-fold increase, respectively, in stand ups versus PBS-treated dyW−/− animals (Figure 3B).
      We measured the forelimb peak muscle tension to assess whether laminin-111 treatment results in improved muscle force (Figure 3C). Analysis revealed that 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-week-old dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibited a 2.8-, 3.3-, 3.4-, and 7.2-fold decrease in forelimb force generation, respectively, compared to wild-type mice (Figure 3C). At 5, 10, 15 and 20 weeks of age, dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 showed a 1.6-, 1.5-, 1.4-, and 1.7-fold increase in forelimb force generation, respectively, compared to PBS-treated dyW−/− mice (Figure 3C).
      Lastly, overall activity of each group was measured over a 5-minute period (Figure 3D). At 5, 10, 15 and 20 weeks of age, dyW−/− mice treated with PBS demonstrated a 1.7-, 1.6-, 1.9-, and 2.4-fold decrease in activity, respectively, compared to wild-type animals (Figure 3D). At 5, 10, 15 and 20 weeks of age, dyW−/− mice treated weekly with laminin-111 protein showed a 1.4-, 1.5-, 1.7-, and 1.8-fold increase in activity compared to PBS-treated dyW−/− mice (Figure 3D). The improvement in stand-up activity, force generation, and overall activity in laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice indicates that laminin-111 can partially rescue many of the functional deficits that are found in laminin-211/221 deficiency.

      Laminin-111 Protein Therapy Prevents Muscle Pathology in Laminin-α2–Deficient Mice

      MDC1A is characterized by progressive muscle wasting in which myofibers undergo delayed regeneration, apoptosis, atrophy, and fibrosis.
      • Muntoni F Voit T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies in 2004: a century of exciting progress.
      • Ringelmann B.
      • Roder C.
      • Hallmann R.
      • Maley M.
      • Davies M.
      • Grounds M.
      • Sorokin L.
      Expression of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, fibronectin, and tenascin-C in skeletal muscle of dystrophic 129ReJ dy/dy mice.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vilquin J.T.
      • Engvall E.
      Activation of the lama2 gene in muscle regeneration: abortive regeneration in laminin alpha2-deficiency.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Loechel F.
      • Xu H.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin and laminin in myogenesis; specific requirement for merosin in myotube stability and survival.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Xu H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Hayashi Y.
      • Arahata K.
      • Reed J.C.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Integrins (alpha7beta1) in muscle function and survival Disrupted expression in merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      • Allamand V.
      • Guicheney P.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy, autosomal recessive (MDC1A. MIM#156225, LAMA2 gene coding for alpha2 chain of laminin).
      • Gawlik K.
      • Miyagoe-Suzuki Y.
      • Ekblom P.
      • Takeda S.
      • Durbeej M.
      Laminin alpha1 chain reduces muscular dystrophy in laminin alpha2 chain deficient mice.
      • Mendell J.R.
      • Boue D.R.
      • Martin P.T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies: recent advances and molecular insights.
      • Pegoraro E.
      • Mancias P.
      • Swerdlow S.H.
      • Raikow R.B.
      • Garcia C.
      • Marks H.
      • Crawford T.
      • Carver V.
      • Di Cianno B.
      • Hoffman E.P.
      Congenital muscular dystrophy with primary laminin alpha2 (merosin) deficiency presenting as inflammatory myopathy.
      • Gawlik K.I.
      • Akerlund M.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Elamaa H.
      • Durbeej M.
      Distinct roles for laminin globular domains in laminin alpha1 chain mediated rescue of murine laminin alpha2 chain deficiency.
      To determine whether laminin-111 prevented muscle pathology in dyW−/− mice, TA muscle sections from 5-week-old female dyW−/− mice were subjected to H&E staining (Figure 4A). PBS-treated dyW−/− mice demonstrated myofiber size variation, mononuclear infiltrates, and 46% of myofibers containing centrally located nuclei (Figure 4, A and B). By contrast, 5-week-old dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 exhibited a reduced mononuclear infiltration and a 2.3-fold reduction in the number of TA myofibers with centrally located nuclei (Figure 4, A and B). Evans Blue dye uptake was used to examine whether laminin-111 corrected the sarcolemmal fragility found in laminin-α2–deficient muscle. Compared to wild-type mice, 6.5% of myofibers from PBS-treated dyW−/− mice were Evans Blue positive, wherease only 0.9% of myofibers from laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice were Evans Blue positive, a 7.3-fold decrease (Figure 4, A and C).
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4Laminin-111 (LAM-111) protein therapy prevents muscle degeneration and loss in the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A. A: Intramuscular injections of laminin-111 into the TA muscle of 5-week-old female dyW−/− mice reduced pathology and Evans Blue dye (EBD) uptake compared to dyW−/− muscle treated with PBS. Scale bar = 20 µm. B: Intramuscular injections of laminin-111 into 5-week-old dyW−/− TA muscle reduced the percentage of myofibers containing centrally located nuclei (CLN). C: Intramuscular injections of laminin-111 into 5-week-old TA muscle reduced the percentage of Evans Blue dye–positive myofibers compared to PBS. D: Systemic laminin-111 treatment reduced the number of atrophic myofibers in 5-week-old dyW−/− triceps muscle and improved myofiber cross-sectional areas compared to PBS-treated animals. E: Systemic laminin-111 treatment prevented muscle loss in 5-week-old dyW−/− triceps muscle compared to PBS-treated animals. *P < 0.05; **P < 0.001.
      MDC1A patients and dyW−/− mice exhibit progressive muscle wasting, including atrophic myofibers and myofiber loss.
      • Muntoni F Voit T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies in 2004: a century of exciting progress.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vilquin J.T.
      • Engvall E.
      Activation of the lama2 gene in muscle regeneration: abortive regeneration in laminin alpha2-deficiency.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Loechel F.
      • Xu H.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin and laminin in myogenesis; specific requirement for merosin in myotube stability and survival.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Xu H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Hayashi Y.
      • Arahata K.
      • Reed J.C.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Integrins (alpha7beta1) in muscle function and survival Disrupted expression in merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      • Allamand V.
      • Guicheney P.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy, autosomal recessive (MDC1A. MIM#156225, LAMA2 gene coding for alpha2 chain of laminin).
      • Gawlik K.
      • Miyagoe-Suzuki Y.
      • Ekblom P.
      • Takeda S.
      • Durbeej M.
      Laminin alpha1 chain reduces muscular dystrophy in laminin alpha2 chain deficient mice.
      • Mendell J.R.
      • Boue D.R.
      • Martin P.T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies: recent advances and molecular insights.
      • Pegoraro E.
      • Mancias P.
      • Swerdlow S.H.
      • Raikow R.B.
      • Garcia C.
      • Marks H.
      • Crawford T.
      • Carver V.
      • Di Cianno B.
      • Hoffman E.P.
      Congenital muscular dystrophy with primary laminin alpha2 (merosin) deficiency presenting as inflammatory myopathy.
      • Gawlik K.I.
      • Akerlund M.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Elamaa H.
      • Durbeej M.
      Distinct roles for laminin globular domains in laminin alpha1 chain mediated rescue of murine laminin alpha2 chain deficiency.
      Analysis of the cross-sectional area of tricep myofibers revealed that the peak cross-sectional area of wild-type myofibers was between 1100 and 1200 μm2, whereas dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibited a peak cross-sectional area of 600 to 700 μm2, representing an ∼50% decrease (Figure 4D). The triceps of dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 exhibited a broader cross-sectional peak range, from 700 to 1700 μm2 (Figure 4D).
      To examine whether laminin-111 prevented muscle loss, all of the myofibers in the triceps muscle of 5-week-old mice were counted. Compared to wild-type, the tricep muscle of dyW−/− mice treated with PBS showed a threefold decrease in the number of myofibers (Figure 4E). In laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice, there were twofold more myofibers in the triceps muscle compared with PBS-treated animals (Figure 4E). The prevention of muscle atrophy and myofiber loss associated with the absence of laminin-211/221 is consistent with the observed reduction in centrally nucleated myofibers. Collectively, these results indicate that laminin-111 therapy improved sarcolemmal integrity and ameliorates myofiber atrophy, inflammation, and degeneration associated with laminin-α2 deficiency.

      Laminin-111 Protein Therapy Prevents Fibrosis in Laminin-α2–Deficient Muscle

      Reduced muscle function in MDC1A correlates with progressive levels of fibrosis.
      • Allamand V.
      • Guicheney P.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy, autosomal recessive (MDC1A. MIM#156225, LAMA2 gene coding for alpha2 chain of laminin).
      Immunofluorescence revealed substantial collagen VI deposition in 5-week-old triceps muscle of dyW−/− mice treated with PBS, whereas laminin-111 therapy resulted in near wild-type levels of muscle collagen VI (Figure 5A). Masson's trichrome staining confirmed our immunofluorescence observations.
      Figure thumbnail gr5
      Figure 5Laminin-111 (LAM-111) protein therapy reduces fibrotic development in dyW−/− muscle. A: Immunofluorescence showing collagen VI in the triceps muscles of 5-week-old mice. Loss of laminin-211/221 increases collagen VI levels in the triceps muscle of dyW−/− mice. Laminin-111 treatment prevents the increase in collagen VI associated with fibrosis. Secondary antibody control (2Ab ctrl) is FITC-conjugated anti-rabbit–only antibody. Masson's trichrome staining of triceps muscle shows laminin-111 treatment reduces blue fibrotic deposition in dyW−/− muscle. Scale bar = 20 µm. B: Box and whiskers plot of hydroxyproline content in the diaphragm muscle shows the increase in hydroxyproline in 10-week-old dyW−/− diaphragm is reduced by weekly treatment of laminin-111. **P = 0.0013; ***P < 0.0001; and ****P < 0.004. n = 5 mice per genotype or treatment.
      We used a hydroxyproline assay to examine the extent of fibrosis in the diaphragm. Compared to 10-week-old wild-type diaphragm muscle, dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibit a 6.6-fold increase in hydroxyproline (Figure 5B). By contrast, dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 exhibit a 1.9-fold reduction in hydroxyproline content compared to dyW−/− mice treated with PBS (Figure 5B). Immunofluorescence detection of collagen VI, Masson's trichrome staining, and hydroxyproline results consistently indicate that laminin-111 protein therapy substantially reduces fibrosis in the skeletal muscles of the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A.

      Laminin-111 Protein Therapy Prevents Inflammation in the Muscle of Laminin-α2–Deficient Muscle

      One hallmark of MDC1A muscle pathology is inflammation.
      • Pegoraro E.
      • Mancias P.
      • Swerdlow S.H.
      • Raikow R.B.
      • Garcia C.
      • Marks H.
      • Crawford T.
      • Carver V.
      • Di Cianno B.
      • Hoffman E.P.
      Congenital muscular dystrophy with primary laminin alpha2 (merosin) deficiency presenting as inflammatory myopathy.
      The presence of T cells (CD8a), macrophages (F4/80, CD11b), and monocytes (CD11b) was quantified in the triceps muscle of laminin-111– and PBS-treated dyW−/− mice. Compared to 5-week-old wild-type mice, dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibited a 61-fold increase in CD8a-positive cells (Figure 6A), a 47-fold increase in CD11b-positive cells (Figure 6B), and a 32-fold increase in F4/80-positive macrophages (Figure 6C). Compared to PBS-treated dyW−/− mice, the triceps from laminin-111–treated dyW−/− mice demonstrated a 3.5-fold reduction in the number of CD8a-positive cells (Figure 6A), a 2.5-fold reduction in CD11b-positive cells (Figure 6B), and a 12.8-fold reduction of F4/80-positive macrophages (Figure 6C). Together, these results indicate laminin-111 protein therapy reduced the inflammatory infiltrates of laminin-α2–deficient muscle.
      Figure thumbnail gr6
      Figure 6Laminin-111 (LAM-111) reduces inflammation in dyW−/− muscle. The number of CD8a-positive lymphocytes (A), CD11b-positive macrophages and monocytes (B), and F4/80-positive macrophages (C) in 5-week-old dyW−/− triceps muscle is reduced by laminin-111 treatment. *P < 0.05; **P < 0.001.
      Finally, we determined whether EHS (mouse) laminin-111 elicited an immune response in dyW−/− mice. Sera from 10-week-old wild-type and dyW−/− mice treated with PBS or laminin-111 were subjected to enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect antibodies against the injected protein. Our results show that mice treated weekly with 10.0 mg/kg laminin-111 for 9 weeks did not elicit an immune response to the exogenous protein (see Supplemental Table S1 at http://ajp.amjpathol.org). These data indicate the laminin-111 protein is unlikely to evoke a strong immune response during long-term administration.

      Laminin-111 Prevents Apoptosis in Mouse Muscle and Primary Myoblasts from MDC1A Patients

      The loss of muscle cell adhesion to the basal lamina in laminin-α2–deficient muscle results in elevated levels of apoptosis.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vilquin J.T.
      • Engvall E.
      Activation of the lama2 gene in muscle regeneration: abortive regeneration in laminin alpha2-deficiency.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Loechel F.
      • Xu H.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin and laminin in myogenesis; specific requirement for merosin in myotube stability and survival.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Xu H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Hayashi Y.
      • Arahata K.
      • Reed J.C.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Integrins (alpha7beta1) in muscle function and survival Disrupted expression in merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      Compared to 5-week-old wild-type mice, 5-week-old dyW−/− mice treated with PBS exhibited a ninefold increase in the number of TUNEL-positive muscle nuclei (Figure 7A). In sharp contrast, dyW−/− mice treated with laminin-111 protein showed a reduction in apoptosis to wild-type levels (Figure 7A).
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Laminin-111 (LAM-111) protein therapy prevents apoptosis in mouse muscle and primary human myogenic cells. A: TUNEL assay shows mouse laminin-111 reduces the number of apoptotic nuclei in the triceps muscle of dyW−/− mice. B: Primary human myogenic cells from MDC1A patients (PHM-1 and PHM-2) exhibit higher levels of apoptosis compared to myogenic cells from unaffected patients (MAK and PC1). Treatment with 100 nmol/L mouse or 50 nmol/L human laminin-111 reduced the number of TUNEL-positive myogenic cells from MDC1A patients (PHM-1 and PHM-2) to levels observed in primary cell lines from unaffected patients (MAK1 and PC1) (n = 4 replicates). *P < 0.05, **P < 0.001.
      We next examined whether the mechanism of laminin-111 protein therapy is conserved between mouse and human muscle. Primary myogenic cells isolated from MDC1A patients were cultured in the absence of exogenous extracellular matrix and then treated with 100 nmol/L mouse or human laminin-111 followed by assessment of the number of apoptotic nuclei (Figure 7B). Compared to normal human myogenic cells (MAK and PC1 cell lines), primary myoblasts from MDC1A patients (PHM-1 and PHM-2) incubated without extracellular matrix for 120 hours exhibited a 2.4- to 2.6-fold increase in the number of apoptotic nuclei (Figure 7B). In contrast, treatment with mouse or human laminin-111 protein reduced the number of apoptotic nuclei in PHM-1 and PHM-2 MDC1A patient cells to that observed in normal human myogenic cells (Figure 7B). Together, these results indicate laminin-111 protein therapy potently prevents the onset of apoptosis in the muscle of the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A, and that mouse and human laminin-111 cross-react through a conserved mechanism to prevent apoptosis in human MDC1A myoblasts.

      Discussion

      Mutations in the LAMA2 gene result in the loss or defective laminin-211 (α2,β2,γ1) and laminin-221 (α2,β2,γ1) heterotrimers, which are the underlying cause of disease in MDC1A.
      • Muntoni F Voit T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies in 2004: a century of exciting progress.
      • Helbling-Leclerc A.
      • Zhang X.
      • Topaloglu H.
      • Cruaud C.
      • Tesson F.
      • Weissenbach J.
      • Tome F.M.
      • Schwartz K.
      • Fardeau M.
      • Tryggvason K.
      • Guicheney P.
      Mutations in the laminin alpha 2-chain gene (LAMA2) cause merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Naom I.S.
      • D'alessandro M.
      • Topaloglu H.
      • Sewry C.
      • Ferlini A.
      • Helbling-Leclerc A.
      • Guicheney P.
      • Weissenbach J.
      • Schwartz K.
      • Bushby K.
      • Philpot J.
      • Dubowitz V.
      • Muntoni F.
      Refinement of the laminin alpha2 chain locus to human chromosome 6q2 in severe and mild merosin deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      MDC1A patients manifest hypotonia, feeding and/or respiratory difficulties, dysmyelinating neuropathy, muscle atrophy, and limited eye movement.
      • Jones K.J.
      • Morgan G.
      • Johnston H.
      • Tobias V.
      • Ouvrier R.A.
      • Wilkinson I.
      • North K.N.
      The expanding phenotype of laminin alpha2 chain (merosin) abnormalities: case series and review.
      • Muntoni F Voit T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies in 2004: a century of exciting progress.
      • Philpot J.
      • Cowan F.
      • Pennock J.
      • Sewry C.
      • Dubowitz V.
      • Bydder G.
      • Muntoni F.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy: the spectrum of brain involvement on magnetic resonance imaging.
      • Philpot J.
      • Bagnall A.
      • King C.
      • Dubowitz V.
      • Muntoni F.
      Feeding problems in merosin deficient congenital muscular dystrophy.
      Most MDC1A patients are unable to walk without assistance and are confined to a wheelchair, and changes in brain white matter can lead to an increased likelihood of seizure-like activity.
      • Jones K.J.
      • Morgan G.
      • Johnston H.
      • Tobias V.
      • Ouvrier R.A.
      • Wilkinson I.
      • North K.N.
      The expanding phenotype of laminin alpha2 chain (merosin) abnormalities: case series and review.
      • Muntoni F Voit T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies in 2004: a century of exciting progress.
      • Philpot J.
      • Cowan F.
      • Pennock J.
      • Sewry C.
      • Dubowitz V.
      • Bydder G.
      • Muntoni F.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy: the spectrum of brain involvement on magnetic resonance imaging.
      • Mendell J.R.
      • Boue D.R.
      • Martin P.T.
      The congenital muscular dystrophies: recent advances and molecular insights.
      Given that there are currently no effective treatments or cure for MDC1A, there is clearly an unmet medical need for therapies for this devastating neuromuscular disease.
      Laminin-111 supports early embryonic myogenesis, but laminin-111 is not present in adult skeletal muscle.
      • Gullberg D.
      • Tiger C.F.
      • Velling T.
      Laminins during muscle development and in muscular dystrophies.
      • Pedrosa-Domellof F.
      • Tiger C.F.
      • Virtanen I.
      • Thornell L.E.
      • Gullberg D.
      Laminin chains in developing and adult human myotendinous junctions.
      • Ringelmann B.
      • Roder C.
      • Hallmann R.
      • Maley M.
      • Davies M.
      • Grounds M.
      • Sorokin L.
      Expression of laminin alpha1, alpha2, alpha4, and alpha5 chains, fibronectin, and tenascin-C in skeletal muscle of dystrophic 129ReJ dy/dy mice.
      • Schuler F.
      • Sorokin L.M.
      Expression of laminin isoforms in mouse myogenic cells in vitro and in vivo.
      • Sasaki T.
      • Giltay R.
      • Talts U.
      • Timpl R.
      • Talts J.F.
      Expression and distribution of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains in embryonic and adult mouse tissues: an immunochemical approach.
      • Aumailley M.
      • Smyth N.
      The role of laminins in basement membrane function.
      • Patton B.L.
      • Miner J.H.
      • Chiu A.Y.
      • Sanes J.R.
      Distribution and function of laminins in the neuromuscular system of developing, adult, and mutant mice.
      The laminin-α1 and -α2 chains are the most closely related, and therefore, we hypothesized that laminin-111 could act as a substitution protein therapy to prevent disease progression in the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A. Weekly systemic delivery of EHS-derived mouse laminin-111 protein to dyW−/− mice beginning at 10 days of age resulted in localization of laminin-111 to the basal lamina of skeletal muscles, reduced muscle pathology, improved muscle strength and activity, and resulted in a profound increase in survival. The affinity of α-dystroglycan for laminin-111 is marginally lower than its affinity toward laminin-211, and the α7β1 integrin possesses a much higher affinity for laminin-111 than laminin-211.
      • Nishiuchi R.
      • Takagi J.
      • Hayashi M.
      • Ido H.
      • Yagi Y.
      • Sanzen N.
      • Tsuji T.
      • Yamada M.
      • Sekiguchi K.
      Ligand-binding specificities of laminin-binding integrins: a comprehensive survey of laminin-integrin interactions using recombinant alpha3beta1, alpha6beta1, alpha7beta1 and alpha6beta4 integrins.
      • Talts J.F.
      • Andac Z.
      • Gohring W.
      • Brancaccio A.
      • Timpl R.
      Binding of the G domains of laminin alpha1 and alpha2 chains and perlecan to heparin, sulfatides, alpha-dystroglycan and several extracellular matrix proteins.
      • Taniguchi Y.
      • Ido H.
      • Sanzen N.
      • Hayashi M.
      • Sato-Nishiuchi R.
      • Futaki S.
      • Sekiguchi K.
      The C-terminal region of laminin beta chains modulates the integrin binding affinities of laminins.
      • Yamada H.
      • Shimizu T.
      • Tanaka T.
      • Campbell K.P.
      • Matsumura K.
      Dystroglycan is a binding protein of laminin and merosin in peripheral nerve.
      Thus, mechanistically, laminin-111 can sufficiently bind both laminin receptors in laminin-α2–deficient skeletal muscle and restore sarcolemmal integrity and adhesion.
      Loss of the contact between myofibers and laminin-211/221 in the extracellular matrix also initiates programed cell death in laminin-α2–deficient muscle. The reduction of apoptosis, muscle degeneration, and myofiber loss following laminin-111 treatment in dyW−/− mice is consistent with other reports that demonstrate the restoration of cell adhesion in laminin-α2 deficiency restores prosurvival signaling in muscle.
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy Partial genetic correction in two mouse models.
      In addition, laminin-111–mediated stabilization of myofibers in dyW−/− mice is consistent with the observed reductions in fibrosis and inflammation. The observation that mouse and human laminin-111 prevent apoptosis in human MDC1A myoblasts also indicates a conserved mechanism of action for this therapeutic strategy in both mouse and patient muscle cells. Given the interplay among apoptotic, trophic, and fibrotic signaling cascades in muscle, a beneficial correction in each disease endpoint suggests that laminin-111 is promoting a broad-based improvement in muscle function.
      Although laminin-111 is not produced in adult skeletal muscle, all humans produce laminin-111 as a component of the kidney basement membrane.
      • Sorokin L.M.
      • Pausch F.
      • Durbeej M.
      • Ekblom P.
      Differential expression of five laminin alpha (1–5) chains in developing and adult mouse kidney.
      • Virtanen I.
      • Gullberg D.
      • Rissanen J.
      • Kivilaakso E.
      • Kiviluoto T.
      • Laitinen L.A.
      • Lehto V.P.
      • Ekblom P.
      Laminin alpha1-chain shows a restricted distribution in epithelial basement membranes of fetal and adult human tissues.
      Thus, we anticipate that MDC1A patients will elicit a minimal immune response to intravenously delivered recombinant human laminin-111. Indeed, dyW−/− mice treated with EHS mouse laminin-111 elicited no detectable anti–laminin-111 antibodies. As a therapy for MDC1A, human laminin-111 protein therapy should possess a better safety profile versus human laminin-221/221 since most MDC1A patients would view some or all of the human laminin-211/221 protein as foreign and immunogenic.
      Understanding the molecular basis and pathogenesis of MDC1A has led to innovative approaches for the treatment of this severe congenital muscular dystrophy, including transgenic expression in mice of laminin-α1,
      • Gawlik K.
      • Miyagoe-Suzuki Y.
      • Ekblom P.
      • Takeda S.
      • Durbeej M.
      Laminin alpha1 chain reduces muscular dystrophy in laminin alpha2 chain deficient mice.
      • Gawlik K.I.
      • Akerlund M.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Elamaa H.
      • Durbeej M.
      Distinct roles for laminin globular domains in laminin alpha1 chain mediated rescue of murine laminin alpha2 chain deficiency.
      laminin-α2,
      • Gawlik K.I.
      • Akerlund M.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Elamaa H.
      • Durbeej M.
      Distinct roles for laminin globular domains in laminin alpha1 chain mediated rescue of murine laminin alpha2 chain deficiency.
      • Kuang W.
      • Xu H.
      • Vachon P.H.
      • Liu L.
      • Loechel F.
      • Wewer U.M.
      • Engvall E.
      Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy Partial genetic correction in two mouse models.
      miniagrin,
      • Bentzinger C.F.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Overexpression of mini-agrin in skeletal muscle increases muscle integrity and regenerative capacity in laminin-alpha2-deficient mice.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Lin S.
      • Lochmuller H.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      Linker molecules between laminins and dystroglycan ameliorate laminin-alpha2-deficient muscular dystrophy at all disease stages.
      GalNAc transferase,
      • Xu R.
      • Chandrasekharan K.
      • Yoon J.H.
      • Camboni M.
      • Martin P.T.
      Overexpression of the cytotoxic T cell (CT) carbohydrate inhibits muscular dystrophy in the dyW mouse model of congenital muscular dystrophy 1A.
      insulin-like growth factor 1,
      • Kumar A.
      • Yamauchi J.
      • Girgenrath T.
      • Girgenrath M.
      Muscle-specific expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 improves outcome in Lama2Dy-w mice, a model for congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A.
      α7 integrin,
      • Doe J.A.
      • Wuebbles R.D.
      • Allred E.T.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Elorza M.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Transgenic overexpression of the {alpha}7 integrin reduces muscle pathology and improves viability in the dyW mouse model of merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A.
      and the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Dominov J.A.
      • Kostek C.A.
      • Miller J.B.
      Inhibition of apoptosis improves outcome in a model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      Doxycycline and omigapil, which inhibit apoptotic pathways, and 3-methyladenine, which blocks autophagy, have been shown to be effective in the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A.
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Erb M.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Sumanovski L.T.
      • Courdier-Fruh I.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      • Meier T.
      Omigapil ameliorates the pathology of muscle dystrophy caused by laminin-alpha2 deficiency.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Svensson M.
      • Korner Z.
      • Elowsson L.
      • Matsumura C.
      • Gawlik K.
      • Allamand V.
      • Durbeej M.
      Autophagy is increased in laminin α2 chain deficient muscle and inhibition improves muscle morphology in a mouse model of MDC1A.
      However, drug-based approaches that inhibit apoptosis or autophagy do not address the primary defect in cellular adhesion. Among the approaches listed above, only a laminin-based therapy will restore adhesion via α-dystroglycan and the α7β1 integrin, and correct the secondary consequences of laminin-211/221 deficiency. The laminin-α1 and -α2 cDNAs approach 10 kb in size, which precludes their construction into existing lentiviral or adeno-associated viral-based gene therapy vectors. Among all nontransgenic therapies tested to date in MDC1A mouse models,
      • Girgenrath M.
      • Beermann M.L.
      • Vishnudas V.K.
      • Homma S.
      • Miller J.B.
      Pathology is alleviated by doxycycline in a laminin-alpha2-null model of congenital muscular dystrophy.
      • Erb M.
      • Meinen S.
      • Barzaghi P.
      • Sumanovski L.T.
      • Courdier-Fruh I.
      • Ruegg M.A.
      • Meier T.
      Omigapil ameliorates the pathology of muscle dystrophy caused by laminin-alpha2 deficiency.
      • Carmignac V.
      • Svensson M.
      • Korner Z.
      • Elowsson L.
      • Matsumura C.
      • Gawlik K.
      • Allamand V.
      • Durbeej M.
      Autophagy is increased in laminin α2 chain deficient muscle and inhibition improves muscle morphology in a mouse model of MDC1A.
      laminin-111 protein promotes the longest extension of life and therefore offers significant potential as a broad-based therapeutic for the treatment of MDC1A.
      Recently, protein therapy involving laminin-111, biglycan, and TAT-utrophin have shown efficacy in reducing muscle pathology in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Goudenege S.
      • Lamarre Y.
      • Dumont N.
      • Rousseau J.
      • Frenette J.
      • Skuk D.
      • Tremblay J.P.
      Laminin-111: a potential therapeutic agent for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Rooney J.E.
      • Gurpur P.B.
      • Burkin D.J.
      Laminin-111 protein therapy prevents muscle disease in the mdx mouse model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Sonnemann K.J.
      • Heun-Johnson H.
      • Turner A.J.
      • Baltgalvis K.A.
      • Lowe D.A.
      • Ervasti J.M.
      Functional substitution by TAT-utrophin in dystrophin-deficient mice.
      • Amenta A.R.
      • Yilmaz A.
      • Bogdanovich S.
      • McKechnie B.A.
      • Abedi M.
      • Khurana T.S.
      • Fallon J.R.
      Biglycan recruits utrophin to the sarcolemma and counters dystrophic pathology in mdx mice.
      In this study, we show that laminin-111 protein therapy can substitute for laminin-211/221 to reduce muscle disease progression in the dyW−/− mouse model of MDC1A. The ability of protein molecules such as laminin-111, biglycan, IgM, or TAT-utrophin to traverse the vasculature to the muscle basal lamina may result from a combination of passive and active transport mechanisms, transcytosis, or the inherent pathological “leakiness” of dystrophic myofibers.
      • Sonnemann K.J.
      • Heun-Johnson H.
      • Turner A.J.
      • Baltgalvis K.A.
      • Lowe D.A.
      • Ervasti J.M.
      Functional substitution by TAT-utrophin in dystrophin-deficient mice.
      • Amenta A.R.
      • Yilmaz A.
      • Bogdanovich S.
      • McKechnie B.A.
      • Abedi M.
      • Khurana T.S.
      • Fallon J.R.
      Biglycan recruits utrophin to the sarcolemma and counters dystrophic pathology in mdx mice.
      • Lu Q.L.
      • Yokota T.
      • Takeda S.
      • Garcia L.
      • Muntoni F.
      • Partridge T.
      The status of exon skipping as a therapeutic approach to duchenne muscular dystrophy.
      • Rippe B.
      • Rosengren B.I.
      • Carlsson O.
      • Venturoli D.
      Transendothelial transport: the vesicle controversy.
      • Rojas R.
      • Apodaca G.
      Immunoglobulin transport across polarized epithelial cells.
      • Straub V.
      • Rafael J.A.
      • Chamberlain J.S.
      • Campbell K.P.
      Animal models for muscular dystrophy show different patterns of sarcolemmal disruption.
      Given that the molecular weight of a potential therapeutic agent need not be a barrier to drug development, an intervention for other genetic diseases involving defects in extracellular matrix proteins may be similarly amenable to protein therapies.

      Acknowledgments

      We thank Drs. Paul Martin and Eva Engvall for the dyW−/− mice and Dr. Peter Yurchenco for the anti-laminin-alpha2 (2G) antibody. We also thank Dr. Kathyrn North (Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia) for the human MDC1A myogenic cells.

      Supplementary data

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