Dystrophin deficiency in skeletal muscle of the x-linked dystrophic (mdx) mouse can be partially remedied by implantation of normal muscle precursor cells (mpc) (Partridge, T. A., J. E. Morgan, G. R. Coulton, E. P. Hoffman, and L. M. Kunkel. 1989. Nature (Lond.). 337:176-179). However, it is difficult to determine whether this biochemical "rescue" results in any improvement in the structure or function of the treated muscle, because the vigorous regeneration of mdx muscle more than compensates for the degeneration (Coulton, G. R., N. A. Curtin, J. E. Morgan, and T. A. Partridge. 1988. Neuropathol. Appl. Neurobiol. 14:299-314). By using x-ray irradiation to prevent mpc proliferation, it is possible to study loss of mdx muscle fibers without the complicating effect of simultaneous fiber regeneration. Thus, improvements in fiber survival resulting from any potential therapy can be detected easily (Wakeford, S., D. J. Watt, and T. A. Patridge. 1990. Muscle & Nerve.) Here, we have implanted normal mpc, obtained from newborn mice, into such preirradiated mdx muscles, finding that it is far more extensively permeated and replaced by implanted mpc than is nonirradiated mdx muscle; this is evident both from analysis of glucose-6-phosphate isomerase isoenzyme markers and from immunoblots and immunostaining of dystrophin in the treated muscles. Incorporation of normal mpc markedly reduces the loss of muscle fibers and the deterioration of muscle structure which otherwise occurs in irradiated mdx muscles. Surprisingly, the regenerated fibers are largely peripherally nucleated, whereas regenerated mouse skeletal muscle fibers are normally centrally nucleated. We attribute this regeneration of apparently normal muscle to the tendency of newborn mouse mpc to recapitulate their neonatal ontogeny, even when grafted into 3-wk-old degenerating muscle.
We have characterized a protein immunologically related to dystrophin, the protein product of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene. We identify this related protein as a fast-twitch glycolytic isoform (mouse extensor digitorum longus-specific) of myofibrillar alpha-actinin. This specific isoform of alpha-actinin exhibits a more restricted pattern of expression in skeletal muscle than fast-twitch-specific isoforms of both myosin and Ca2+-ATPase. Our results provide evidence that dystrophin and myofibrillar alpha-actinin are related proteins, reinforcing the previous data concerning the sequence homologies noted between nonmuscle cytoskeletal alpha-actinin and dystrophin. In addition, we describe the first antisera directed against a specific myofibrillar skeletal muscle isoform of alpha-actinin.