Mol Ther. 2010 Sep 7. [Epub ahead of print]
A promising therapeutic approach for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is exon skipping using antisense oligonucleotides (AOs). In-frame deletions of the hinge 3 region of the dystrophin protein, which is encoded by exons 50 and 51, are predicted to cause a variety of phenotypes. Here, we performed functional analyses of muscle in the exon 52-deleted mdx (mdx52) mouse, to predict the function of in-frame dystrophin following exon 51-skipping, which leads to a protein lacking most of hinge 3. A series of AOs based on phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers was screened by intramuscular injection into mdx52 mice. The highest splicing efficiency was generated by a two-oligonucleotide cocktail targeting both the 5' and 3' splice sites of exon 51. After a dose-escalation study, we systemically delivered this cocktail into mdx52 mice seven times at weekly intervals. This induced 20-30% of wild-type (WT) dystrophin expression levels in all muscles, and was accompanied by amelioration of the dystrophic pathology and improvement of skeletal muscle function. Because the structure of the restored in-frame dystrophin resembles human dystrophin following exon 51-skipping, our results are encouraging for the ongoing clinical trials for DMD. Moreover, the therapeutic dose required can provide a suggestion of the theoretical equivalent dose for humans.
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