Transcriptional and cytopathological hallmarks of FSHD in chronic DUX4-expressing mice

Darko Bosnakovski, Ahmed S. Shams, Ce Yuan, Meiricris T. da Silva, Elizabeth T. Ener, Cory W. Baumann, Angus J. Lindsay, Mayank Verma, Atsushi Asakura, Dawn A. Lowe, Michael Kyba

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41 Scopus citations


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by loss of repression of the DUX4 gene; however, the DUX4 protein is rare and difficult to detect in human muscle biopsies, and pathological mechanisms are obscure. FSHD is also a chronic disease that progresses slowly over decades. We used the sporadic, low-level, muscle-specific expression of DUX4 enabled by the iDUX4pA-HSA mouse to develop a chronic long-term muscle disease model. After 6 months of extremely low sporadic DUX4 expression, dystrophic muscle presented hallmarks of FSHD histopathology, including muscle degeneration, capillary loss, fibrosis, and atrophy. We investigated the transcriptional profile of whole muscle as well as endothelial cells and fibroadiopogenic progenitors (FAPs). Strikingly, differential gene expression profiles of both whole muscle and, to a lesser extent, FAPs, showed significant overlap with transcriptional profiles of MRI-guided human FSHD muscle biopsies. These results demonstrate a pathophysiological similarity between disease in muscles of iDUX4pA-HSA mice and humans with FSHD, solidifying the value of chronic rare DUX4 expression in mice for modeling pathological mechanisms in FSHD and highlighting the importance FAPs in this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2465-2477
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Friends of FSH Research, the FSHD Society (FSHS-22017-05), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (R01 AR055685), and the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG031743). CWB was supported by the Minnesota Muscle Training Grant (T32 AR007612). We thank Cynthia Faradaya for work on the figures.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2020, American Society for Clinical Investigation.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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