Depletion of skeletal muscle satellite cells attenuates pathology in muscular dystrophy

Justin G. Boyer, Jiuzhou Huo, Sarah Han, Julian R. Havens, Vikram Prasad, Brian L. Lin, David A. Kass, Taejeong Song, Sakthivel Sadayappan, Ramzi J. Khairallah, Christopher W. Ward, Jeffery D. Molkentin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Skeletal muscle can repair and regenerate due to resident stem cells known as satellite cells. The muscular dystrophies are progressive muscle wasting diseases underscored by chronic muscle damage that is continually repaired by satellite cell-driven regeneration. Here we generate a genetic strategy to mediate satellite cell ablation in dystrophic mouse models to investigate how satellite cells impact disease trajectory. Unexpectedly, we observe that depletion of satellite cells reduces dystrophic disease features, with improved histopathology, enhanced sarcolemmal stability and augmented muscle performance. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that satellite cells initiate expression of the myogenic transcription factor MyoD, which then induces re-expression of fetal genes in the myofibers that destabilize the sarcolemma. Indeed, MyoD re-expression in wildtype adult skeletal muscle reduces membrane stability and promotes histopathology, while MyoD inhibition in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy improved membrane stability. Taken together these observations suggest that satellite cell activation and the fetal gene program is maladaptive in chronic dystrophic skeletal muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2940
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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