Publication Date



International Journal of Molecular Sciences


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disease characterized by skeletal muscle instability, progressive muscle wasting, and fibrosis. A major driver of DMD pathology stems from aberrant upregulation of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) signaling. In this report, we investigated the major transducers of TGFβ signaling, i.e., receptor Smads (R-Smads), in DMD patient skeletal muscle and observed a 48-fold increase in Smad8 mRNA. Smad1, Smad2, Smad3, and Smad5 mRNA were only minimally increased. A similar pattern was observed in the muscle from the mdx5cv mouse. Western blot analysis showed upregulation of phosphorylated Smad1, Smad5, and Smad8 compared to total Smad indicating activation of this pathway. In parallel, we observed a profound diminishment of muscle-enriched microRNAs (myomiRs): miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-133b. The pattern of Smad8 induction and myomiR suppression was recapitulated in C2C12 muscle cells after stimulation with bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4), a signaling factor that we found upregulated in DMD muscle. Silencing Smad8 in C2C12 myoblasts derepressed myomiRs and promoted myoblast differentiation; there was also a concomitant upregulation of myogenic regulatory factors (myogenin and myocyte enhancer factor 2D) and suppression of a pro-inflammatory cytokine (interleukin-6). Our data suggest that Smad8 is a negative regulator of miR-1, miR-133a, and miR-133b in muscle cells and that the BMP4-Smad8 axis is a driver of dystrophic pathology in DMD.


BMP4, Duchenne, miRNA, muscle, Smad8



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