Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2E (LGMD2E), resulting from mutations in β-sarcoglycan (SGCB), is a progressive dystrophy with deteriorating muscle function, respiratory failure, and cardiomyopathy in 50% or more of LGMD2E patients. SGCB knockout mice share many of the phenotypic deficiencies of LGMD2E patients. To investigate systemic SGCB gene transfer to treat skeletal and cardiac muscle deficits, we designed a self-complementary AAVrh74 vector containing a codon-optimized human SGCB transgene driven by a muscle-specific promoter. We delivered scAAV.MHCK7.hSGCB through the tail vein of SGCB-/- mice to provide a rationale for a clinical trial that would lead to clinically meaningful results. This led to 98.1% transgene expression across all muscles that was accompanied by improvements in histopathology. Serum creatine kinase (CK) levels were reduced following treatment by 85.5%.
Diaphragm force production increased by 94.4%, kyphoscoliosis of the spine was significantly reduced by 48.1%, overall ambulation increased by 57%, and vertical rearing increased dramatically by 132% following treatment. Importantly, no adverse effects were seen in muscle of wild-type mice injected systemically with scAAV.hSGCB. In this well-defined model of LGMD2E, we have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of systemic scAAV.hSGCB delivery, and these findings have established a path for clinically beneficial AAV-mediated gene therapy for LGMD2E.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2E (LGMD2E) results from mutations in the β-sarcoglycan (SGCB) gene causing loss of functional protein and concomitant loss of dystrophin-associated proteins. The disease phenotype is characterized by muscle weakness and wasting, and dystrophic features including muscle fiber necrosis, inflammation and fibrosis. The Sgcb-null mouse recapitulates the clinical phenotype with significant endomysial fibrosis providing a relevant model to test whether gene replacement will be efficacious. We directly addressed this question using a codon optimized human β-sarcoglycan gene (hSGCB) driven by a muscle-specific tMCK promoter (scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCB). Following isolated limb delivery (5 × 1011 vector genome (vg)), 91.2% of muscle fibers in the lower limb expressed β-sarcoglycan, restoring assembly of the sarcoglycan complex and protecting the membrane from Evans blue dye leakage. Histological outcomes were significantly improved including decreased central nucleation, normalization of muscle fiber size, decreased macrophages and inflammatory mononuclear cells, and an average of a 43% reduction in collagen deposition in treated muscle compared with untreated muscle at end point. These measures correlated with improvement of tetanic force and resistance to eccentric contraction. In 6-month-old mice, as indicated by collagen staining, scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCB treatment reduced fibrosis by 42%. This study demonstrates the potential for gene replacement to reverse debilitating fibrosis, typical of muscular dystrophy, thereby providing compelling evidence for movement to clinical gene replacement for LGMD2E.
To determine the clinical spectrum of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2E (LGMD2E) and to investigate whether genetic or biochemical features can predict the phenotype of the disease.
All LGMD2E patients followed in participating centers were included. A specific clinical protocol was created, including quantitative evaluation of motor, respiratory, and cardiac function. Phenotype was defined as severe or mild if the age at loss of ambulation occurred before or after 18 years. Molecular analysis of SGCB gene and biochemical features of muscle biopsies were reviewed.
Thirty-two patients were included (16 male, 16 female; age 7-67 years; 15 severe, 12 mild, and 5 unknown). Neurologic examination showed proximal muscle weakness in all patients, but distal involvement was also observed in patients with severe disease early in the disease course. Cardiac involvement was observed in 20 patients (63%) even before overt muscle involvement. Six patients had restrictive respiratory insufficiency requiring assisted ventilation (19%). Seventeen different mutations were identified, and 3 were recurrent. The c.377_384dup (13 alleles) was associated with the severe form, the c.-22_10dup (10) with the milder form, and the c.341C>T (9) with both. The entire sarcoglycan complex was undetectable by muscle immunohistochemistry or Western blot in 9/10 severe cases and reduced in 7/7 mild cases. The residual amount of sarcoglycan in muscle resulted a predictor of age at loss of ambulation.
This study expands the spectrum of phenotype in β-sarcoglycanopathy and provides strong evidence that severity of clinical involvement may be predicted by SGCB gene mutation and sarcoglycan protein expression.