p53-independent DUX4 pathology in cell and animal models of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Darko Bosnakovski, Micah D. Gearhart, Erik A. Toso, Olivia O. Recht, Anja Cucak, Abhinav K. Jain, Michelle C. Barton, Michael Kyba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a genetically dominant myopathy caused by mutations that disrupt repression of the normally silent DUX4 gene, which encodes a transcription factor that has been shown to interfere with myogenesis when misexpressed at very low levels in myoblasts and to cause cell death when overexpressed at high levels. A previous report using adeno-associated virus to deliver high levels of DUX4 to mouse skeletal muscle demonstrated severe pathology that was suppressed on a p53-knockout background, implying that DUX4 acted through the p53 pathway. Here, we investigate the p53 dependence of DUX4 using various in vitro and in vivo models. We find that inhibiting p53 has no effect on the cytoxicity of DUX4 on C2C12 myoblasts, and that expression of DUX4 does not lead to activation of the p53 pathway. DUX4 does lead to expression of the classic p53 target gene Cdkn1a (p21) but in a p53-independent manner. Meta-analysis of 5 publicly available data sets of DUX4 transcriptional profiles in both human and mouse cells shows no evidence of p53 activation, and further reveals that Cdkn1a is a mouse-specific target of DUX4. When the inducible DUX4 mouse model is crossed onto the p53-null background, we find no suppression of the male-specific lethality or skin phenotypes that are characteristic of the DUX4 transgene, and find that primary myoblasts from this mouse are still killed by DUX4 expression. These data challenge the notion that the p53 pathway is central to the pathogenicity of DUX4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1211-1216
Number of pages6
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • DUX4
  • Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy
  • Myopathy
  • p53


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