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Increased plasma lipid levels exacerbate muscle pathology in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular… Milad, Nadia; White, Zoe; Tehrani, Arash Y; Sellers, Stephanie; Rossi, Fabio M; Bernatchez, Pascal Sep 12, 2017

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RESEARCH Open AccessIncreased plasma lipid levels exacerbatemuscle pathology in the mdx mouse modelof Duchenne muscular dystrophyNadia Milad1,2, Zoe White1,2, Arash Y. Tehrani1,2, Stephanie Sellers1,2, Fabio M.V. Rossi3 and Pascal Bernatchez1,2*AbstractBackground: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by loss of dystrophin expression and leads to severeambulatory and cardiac function decline. However, the dystrophin-deficient mdx murine model of DMD onlydevelops a very mild form of the disease. Our group and others have shown vascular abnormalities in animalmodels of MD, a likely consequence of the fact that blood vessels express the same dystrophin-associatedglycoprotein complex (DGC) proteins as skeletal muscles.Methods: To test the blood vessel contribution to muscle damage in DMD, mdx4cv mice were given elevated lipidlevels via apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene knockout combined with normal chow or lipid-rich Western diets.Ambulatory function and heart function (via echocardiogram) were assessed at 4 and 7 months of age. Aftersacrifice, muscle histology and aortic staining were used to assess muscle pathology and atherosclerosisdevelopment, respectively. Plasma levels of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), triglycerides, andcreatine kinase (CK) were also measured.Results: Although there was an increase in left ventricular heart volume in mdx-ApoE mice compared to that inmdx mice, parameters of heart function were not affected. Compared with wild-type and ApoE-null, only mdx-ApoEKO mice showed significant ambulatory dysfunction. Despite no significant difference in plasma CK, histologicalanalyses revealed that elevated plasma lipids in chow- and Western diet-fed mdx-ApoE mice was associated withsevere exacerbation of muscle pathology compared to mdx mice: significant increase in myofiber damage andfibrofatty replacement in the gastrocnemius and triceps brachii muscles, more reminiscent of human DMDpathology. Finally, although both ApoE and mdx-ApoE groups displayed increased plasma lipids, mdx-ApoEexhibited atherosclerotic plaque deposition equal to or less than that of ApoE mice.Conclusions: Since others have shown that lipid abnormalities correlate with DMD severity, our data suggest thatplasma lipids could be primary contributors to human DMD severity and that the notoriously mild phenotype ofmdx mice might be attributable in part to their endogenously low plasma lipid profiles. Hence, DMD patients maybenefit from lipid-lowering and vascular-targeted therapies.Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Vascular disease, Lipids, Dystrophin, Apolipoprotein E, Atherosclerosis* Correspondence: pascal.bernatchez@ubc.ca1Department of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University ofBritish Columbia (UBC), 217-2176 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BritishColumbia V6T 1Z3, Canada2Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation, St. Paul’s Hospital, 1081 BurrardStreet, Rm 166, Vancouver, British Columbia, CanadaFull list of author information is available at the end of the article© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link tothe Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver(http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 DOI 10.1186/s13395-017-0135-9BackgroundDystrophin is a 427 kDa protein encoded on the shortarm of the X chromosome. It is a key member of thedystrophin-glycoprotein complex (DGC), which spansthe plasma membrane and links the extracellular matrixto the intracellular cytoskeleton [1]. Dystrophin binds tocytoskeletal actin filaments and to other DGC proteinsin the plasma membrane, creating an attachment pointrequired for the maintenance of sarcolemmal structureand protection from mechanical stress [2]. Loss of func-tional dystrophin expression leads to development ofDuchenne (DMD) and Becker muscular dystrophies(BMD) characterized by severe and progressive muscleweakness and wasting due to increased sarcolemma fra-gility and susceptibility to myofiber injury [2–4].DMD is the most common type of MD, occurring innearly 1 in 3600–6000 male births worldwide and ac-counting for approximately 80% of all MD cases [5, 6].Children usually present with abnormal gait, progressivemuscle weakness, calf pseudohypertrophy, and elevatedserum creatine kinase (CK) levels. However, musclehypertrophy gradually gives way to significant muscledegeneration and fibrofatty remodeling [7–9], leaving90% of boys confined to a wheelchair by age 12 [10]. Al-though DMD patients exhibit devastating skeletalmuscle pathology, cardiomyocytes also show increasedsusceptibility to mechanical stress-induced injury leadingto increased heart fibrosis [11] and development of oftenlethal cardiac dysfunction, usually manifested as dilatedcardiomyopathy (DCM) [12–15]. As a result of the se-vere cardiac pathology, in addition to impaired respira-tory function due to significant diaphragm damage,DMD patient life expectancy is shortened to approxi-mately 30 years of age [10, 16].The mdx murine model is the most commonly usedmodel for studying DMD; however, despite the lack ofsignificant dystrophin expression, mdx mice only displaymild muscle pathology. Between 2 and 8 weeks of age,mdx mice undergo cycles of damage, with muscle necro-sis reaching up to 80% in some muscles, followed by ro-bust myofiber regeneration [17–19]. By adulthood, mdxmice exhibit minimal fibrofatty infiltration and myofibernecrosis (<5% of muscle area) in most skeletal muscles[19, 20], while other muscles, such as the tongue, dia-phragm, and gastrocnemius, can develop mild pathologyin elderly mdx mice [21–23]. Cardiac muscle is alsomoderately affected in mdx mice, displaying slight fibro-sis and inflammatory cell infiltration [18], althoughchanges in heart function can only be seen in very oldmdx mice [24] or when challenged with a dobutaminestress echocardiogram [25, 26]. Overall, the disparity be-tween disease severity in human DMD and currentlyavailable models [18, 22] speaks to a need for more rep-resentative DMD models.Since we and others have documented expression ofDGC-associated proteins in vascular endothelial cellsand smooth muscle cells [27, 28], we hypothesized thatmutations of DGC proteins in the vasculature may affectthe primary muscle dysfunction in MD. To test this hy-pothesis, mdx mice were given increased plasma lipidlevels associated with vascular disease and atheroscler-osis. This was achieved via inactivation of the apolipo-protein E (ApoE) gene, which causes accumulation ofcholesterol-rich particles in the plasma [29, 30]. The re-sultant mdx-ApoE mice display increased lipid levels ac-companied by significant exacerbation of the musclepathology, better recapitulating the DMD patient pheno-type. Our data suggest that the notoriously mild pheno-type of mdx mice might be attributable to their nativelylow plasma lipid profiles and superior vascular healthcompared to humans. Since recent reports have uncov-ered plasma and tissue lipid abnormalities in DMD pa-tients [31, 32], we propose that plasma lipids could be asignificant contributor to MD pathology and that DMDpatients may benefit from lipid-lowering and vascular-targeted therapies.MethodsAnimal breeding and husbandryAll animals were housed in a 12-h light/dark cycle,temperature-regulated facility, and all experiments wereperformed with the approval of UBC Animal Care Com-mittee. Experimental mice were placed on regular chow(LabDiet 5001) or Western diet (Harlan, TD88137; 0.2%total cholesterol, 21% total fat, and 34% sucrose byweight) at 8 weeks of age. Mice were sacrificed at 4 and7 months of age while under terminal anesthesia (3.5%v/v isoflurane at 2 L O2) via cardiac puncture and per-fused with warmed Krebs solution [118 mmol/L NaCl,22.5 mmol/L NaHCO3, 4 mmol/L KCl, 1.2 mmol/LNaH2PO4, 2 mmol/L CaCl2, 2 mmol/L MgCl2, and11 mmol/L dextrose].Experimental mice were generated using mdx4cv micecrossed with ApoE−/− mice, both strains are C57BL/6background and were acquired from Jackson Laborator-ies (Bar Harbor, ME). From this cross, mdx+/− ApoE+/−littermates were bred to generate several genotypes in-cluding mdx−/− ApoE+/− females and mdx−/y ApoE+/−males, which were then crossed to generate two experi-mental groups: mdx−/− ApoE+/+ and mdx−/− ApoE−/−(simplified as mdx and mdx-ApoE, respectively). Separ-ately, ApoE−/− mice were crossed with C57BL/6 mice togenerate ApoE+/− littermates. These heterozygous litter-mates were crossed to produce the other two experi-mental groups: ApoE+/+ and ApoE−/−, simplified as wild-type (WT) and ApoE, respectively. Ear clip DNA was ex-tracted using hot NaOH and Tris-HCl extractionmethod [33]. Mice were genotyped using the mdx4cvMilad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 2 of 14primer competition method [34], and the ApoE protocolsuggested by Jackson Laboratories. Mice were fed aWestern diet starting at 8 weeks of age until sacrifice at4 and 7 months. Both male and female offspring wereused in this study with n values in each group as follows:Chow–WT (n = 1M, 2F), ApoE (n = 3M, 2F), mdx(n = 4M, 6F), mdx-ApoE (n = 6M, 7F); Western–WT4 m (n = 2M, 2F), 7 m (5M, 4F); ApoE 4 m (n = 2M,1F), 7 m (n = 5M, 4F); mdx 4 m (n = 3M, 4F), 7 m(n = 4M, 3F); and mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 2M, 4F), 7 m(n = 6M, 4F). Stratification of data by gender at 7 monthsof age on Western diet revealed little to no significantdifference in muscle or heart measurements (Additionalfile 1: Figure S8).Ambulatory function assessmentStep length was measured by painting the hind-feet of miceand by allowing them to run down a small corridor linedwith paper approximately 1.5 m in length. Distance be-tween steps of the same foot were measured and averagedover three consecutive runs, excluding areas of stoppage.In vivo heart functionMice were anesthetized using 0.75–1.25% v/v isofluraneat 2 L O2 with heart rate kept between 400 and425 BPM and a four-chamber echocardiogram was per-formed using the VisualSonics Vevo 2100 system. Heartchamber and ventricle wall tracings were analyzed to de-termine several physiological and functional cardiac pa-rameters such as cardiac output, fractional shortening,stroke volume, ejection fraction, as well as left ventricu-lar diameter and volume in both diastole and systole.Evan’s blue dye assayAs per previously elucidated protocols [35], under 3.0%isoflurane v/v, mice were injected intravenously with200 μL of 0.5% Evan’s blue dye in PBS solution into the in-ferior vena cava. Animals were perfused for 10 min beforesacrifice by cervical dislocation was performed and mus-cles were collected. After 24 h of drying at 56 °C, driedmuscles were weighed and placed in 500 μL formamidefor 24 h at 56 °C. Samples were spun down, 200 μL ofeach sample was added to 96-well plates in duplicate, andabsorbance at 500 nm was measured. Standard curve wasused to extrapolate ng of Evan’s blue dye which was thennormalized to dry muscle tissue weight.Muscle histologyDiaphragm, tibialis anterior (TA), extensor digitorumlongus (EDL), gastrocnemius, quadriceps femoris, andtriceps brachii muscles were collected. Tissue was fixedin 10% formalin for 24 h then was transferred to 70%ethanol. Muscle was paraffin-embedded and was sec-tioned into 8-μm-thick slides, which were then stainedwith hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) or Masson’s tri-chrome stains. Alizarin red stain was also performed onselect skeletal muscle slides to visualize calcium depos-ition. Percentage of fat was calculated by tracing adipo-cyte regions in Aperio ImageScope software and bydividing the area by the total area of the muscle. To de-termine percentage of muscle area occupied by healthymyofibers, non-myofiber areas (e.g., adipocytes, choles-terol accumulations, calcification, and inflammatorycells) as well as damaged, necrotic regions were sub-tracted from total muscle area. Collagen content wasmeasured using a positive pixel count algorithm inAperio ImageScope software on Masson’s trichromestained slides using the following parameters: hue valueof 0.66 and hue width of 0.25. Hearts were also fixed in10% formalin, paraffin-embedded and stained with Mas-son’s trichrome.Contralateral muscles were harvested and immediatelytragacanth-embedded in cross-section, flash frozen inliquid-nitrogen-cooled isopentane and stored at − 80 °C.Frozen muscles were sectioned at − 20 °C at 8 μm inthickness and were stained with oil red O to visualizedneutral lipids in muscle tissue following the protocol de-veloped by Mehlem, Hagberg [36]. To visualize vasculardensity, CD31 (PECAM-1) was detected in muscle cryo-sections using anti-CD31 antibody (1:100 dilution, CellSignaling, D8V9E #77699) via immunohistochemistry(IHC) protocol suggested by the manufacturer.Plasma analysisPlasma was collected in heparinized tubes via cardiacpuncture of unfasted mice, was spun down at 4000 RPMfor 10 min at 4 °C, and was stored at − 80 °C. Plasmasamples were assessed using the Siemens Advia 1800system for levels of creatine kinase (CK NAC), choles-terol (CHOL-2), high-density lipoprotein (D-HDL), andtriglycerides (TRIG-2), and assays were performed fol-lowing manufacturer’s instructions.Aortic atherosclerosisHearts were cut along the atrioventricular plane andwere frozen in optimal cutting temperature (OCT) com-pound, and aortic root sections were stained with oil redO [36]. Plaque area in the aortic root was measured insquare millimeter. Whole aortas were fixed in 10% for-malin, were rinsed with 70% ethanol, and were soaked infiltered Sudan IV solution (5 g Sudan IV in 500 mL 70%ethanol and 500 mL acetone) for 20 min. After aortaswere rinsed in 70% ethanol, they were soaked in 80%ethanol for 20 min, then were rinsed in running waterfor 1 h, and were stored in 10% formalin. Photographsof pinned open aortas were taken for analysis, and per-centage of plaque coverage was determined by dividingplaque area by total vessel wall area.Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 3 of 14Statistical analysisStatistical analyses were performed using GraphPadPrism 6. For comparison of multiple groups at one time-point, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) multiplecomparisons test was used to compare the means ofeach group. When multiple groups were compared atseveral time-points, a two-way ANOVA multiple com-parisons test was used. Tukey’s method was used to cor-rect for multiple comparisons. A P value of less than0.05 was considered statistically significant. Figures showdata as mean plus standard error of the mean (SEM)and n indicates the number of mice per experiment.ResultsIncreased plasma lipid levels cause minor cardiac changesin mdx miceHyperlipidemia in mdx mice did not result in lethalityor complete loss of ambulatory function. As expected,total plasma cholesterol was elevated in ApoE and mdx-ApoE groups compared to WT and mdx mice fed a nor-mal chow diet (Fig. 1a), confirming functional loss ofApoE. Total cholesterol was further elevated when ApoEand mdx-ApoE mice were fed a Western, atherogenicdiet (Fig. 1a). WT and mdx mice displayed low totalcholesterol in both chow- or Western diet-fed groups,providing further evidence that mice with normal ApoEexpression have endogenously non-atherogenic lipidprofiles even on a lipid-rich diet. This was accompaniedby the expected raise in atheroprotective high-densitylipoprotein (HDL) in WT mice fed a Western diet(Fig. 1b). However, mdx mice did not show a significantincrease in plasma HDL on a Western diet (Fig. 1b),lending credence to observations that DMD patientsshow abnormal lipid profiles [31, 32, 37]. Surprisingly,no significant differences were observed in plasma TGlevels for Western- and chow-fed groups (Fig. 1c).a bc de fFig. 1 Plasma lipid and creatine kinase levels and cardiac parameter on chow and Western diets. Plasma total cholesterol (a), HDL (b),triglycerides (c), and creatine kinase (d) as well as cardiac parameters from echocardiogram at 7 months of age on chow and Western diet:ejection fraction (e) and left ventricular systolic volume (f). Chow: WT (n = 2–3), ApoE (n = 5), mdx (n = 6–7), mdx-ApoE (n = 8–11). Western: WT(n = 6–9), ApoE (n = 4–7), mdx (n = 6), mdx-ApoE (n = 8–11). Mean + SEM. (a–c) *P < 0.05 compared to WT and ApoE #P < 0.05 compared to allother groups; (d–f) **P < 0.01Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 4 of 14Although studies have shown that levels of plasma CK, amarker of muscle damage, start to drop in mdx miceafter 23 weeks of age [38], mdx and mdx-ApoE strainson Western diet showed similarly robust increases inplasma CK levels at 7 months of age, while this trendwas not significant in chow-fed groups (Fig. 1d). Similarplasma CK and lipids were observed at 4 months of ageon Western diet (Additional file 2: Figure S1A–D).Using echocardiography, parameters of heart functionwere monitored in vivo at 4 and 7 months of age sinceDMD patients develop severe DCM. Although, we ob-served a significant increase in left ventricular (LV) sys-tolic volume, indicating mild ventricle dilation in mdx-ApoE mice compared to mdx at 7 months when fed aWestern diet (Fig. 1f ). However, this was not signifi-cantly different from WT and ApoE controls, and therewas no change in heart function parameters such asejection fraction (Fig. 1e). Similarly, no significantchanges were observed in cardiac output, fractionalshortening, stroke volume, left ventricular diameter indiastole and systole of chow- or Western diet-fed groups(Additional file 3: Figure S2A–F) and no significantchanges were observed in any cardiac parameters at 4-month time-point for both chow- and Western diet-fedgroups (data not shown). On chow diet, there was nosignificant difference in animal body weight between 3and 7 months of age; however, Western diet-fed wild-type animals showed significantly increased body weightby 6 and 7 months of age compared to ApoE and mdx-ApoE groups, respectively (Additional file 4: Fig-ure S3A–B). Heart weights and heart to body weight ra-tios were also similar between groups at 7 months onWestern diet (Additional file 4: Figure S3C–D). Cardiacfunction and weight were stratified by gender, and onlyWT heart weights were significantly different betweenmales and females at 7 months of age on Western diet(Additional file 1: Figure S8). Although left ventricularsystolic volume was significantly larger in mdx-ApoEmice compared to mdx mice at 7 months of age onWester diet, histological observation of cardiac musclerevealed similarly minor cardiac fibrosis in both mdxand mdx-ApoE mice compared to controls by 7 monthsof age on Western diet (Additional file 4: Figure S3E).Hyperlipidemic mdx mice display impaired ambulatoryfunction and sustained hindlimb hypertrophyIn terms of ambulation, we saw noticeable impairmentin the walking ability of hyperlipidemic mdx mice. Com-pared to WT or ApoE mice, stride length measurementsrevealed a significant 20–25% decrease in stride lengthin the mdx-ApoE mice fed a chow or Western diet at7 months of age, whereas mdx mice showed a non-significant reduction in stride length (Fig. 2a–b). Follow-ing euthanasia at 7 months, we noticed sustained grossskeletal muscle size increases in mdx-ApoE mice fed aWestern diet compared to WT (Fig. 2c–d) and similarresults were seen in 7-month-old groups fed chow (datanot shown). Since calf hypertrophy is a relatively earlyevent in DMD, we performed similar analyses in a sec-ond cohort at an earlier 4-month time-point and noticedeven more severe hindlimb hypertrophy in mdx andmdx-ApoE mice fed a Western diet, with no significantdifference between dystrophin-deficient groups (Fig. 2d).Elevated plasma lipid levels exacerbate mdx-associatedmyofiber damage and skeletal muscle remodelingMuscles isolated from WT and ApoE mice showed nor-mal histological features in all skeletal muscle stainedwith Masson’s trichrome (Figs. 3 and 4) and H&E (notshown) when fed a chow or Western diet. However,some muscles exhibited severely worsened myofiberdamage in mdx-ApoE mice compared to mdx mice withnatively lower plasma lipids, such as gastrocnemius(Fig. 3a–b). Results were stratified based on gender, andno significant difference between males and females wasobserved, as seen in Additional file 1: Figure S8. For ex-ample, when fed a Western diet, total gastrocnemiusmuscle area from 7-month-old mdx-ApoE mice was sig-nificantly decreased compared to WT and ApoE controls(Fig. 3c). In addition, mdx-ApoE gastrocnemius musclesshowed significant changes in muscle composition com-pared to all other groups, such as drastically increasedfat and collagen infiltration (approximately 15 and 25%of total muscle area, respectively) as well as decreasedhealthy myofiber area (Fig. 3d–f ). Early signs of muscledamage and fibrosis can be observed in mdx-ApoEgastrocnemius by 4 months of age on a Western diet,with significant increases in fibrosis and a mild increasein fat deposition (Additional file 5: Figure S4A–D).Chow-fed mdx-ApoE gastrocnemius muscles at 7 monthsof age showed more modest but noticeable pathology(Fig. 3a), with significantly less muscle atrophy, fat infil-tration and collagen deposition as well as myofiber ne-crosis compared to the Western diet-fed mdx-ApoEmice (Fig. 3c–f ).Similarly, the triceps brachii muscle was severelyaggravated in mdx-ApoE mice as seen in Fig. 4a–b.Analysis of total muscle area revealed an initial increasein total area of mdx-ApoE triceps brachii at 4 monthson a Western diet (Fig. 4c). Although this hypertrophyevened out by 7 months of age (Fig. 4c), there were dra-matic changes to muscle composition in mdx-ApoE tri-ceps brachii muscles compared to all other groups atthis time-point: increased fat and collagen deposition(approximately 10 and 20% of total muscle area, respect-ively) and decreased viable muscle area (Fig. 4d–f ).Again, increased collagen deposition in both WesternMilad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 5 of 14diet-fed mdx and mdx-ApoE triceps could be observedas early as 4 months of age (Fig. 4e).Conversely, we observed only minor, non-significanttrend towards exacerbation of muscle pathology inthe quadriceps femoris of mdx-ApoE mice: similar in-crease in fibrosis between mdx and mdx-ApoE groupswith no significant fat infiltration (Additional file 6:Figure S5A–E). Similarly, hyperlipidemia did notaffect mdx-associated pathology in the diaphragmmuscle (Additional file 7: Figure S6A): both mdx andmdx-ApoE mice on a Western diet showed significantlevels of fibrosis and myofiber damage with similardecreases in healthy myofiber area at 4 and 7 monthson Western diet (Additional file 7: Figure S6B–E).Finally, we did not observe any dramatic muscle path-ology in the tibialis anterior (TA), soleus or extensordigitorum longus (EDL) muscles collected (data notshown). Together, our data suggest increased muscleatrophy, myofiber damage, and fibrofatty infiltrationin some but not all mdx-associated muscles.Throughout mdx-ApoE muscle, regions of severemuscle damage were marked by regional fatty and fi-brotic remodeling with scattered remaining musclefibers, which is indicative of endomysial fatty infiltration,as seen in Fig. 5a of Western diet-fed mdx-ApoE tricepsbrachii. In addition, giant foam cells and structures char-acteristic of cholesterol clefts are clearly visible in suchareas of severe damage (Fig. 5a). Interestingly, outsidethese regions of fibrofatty replacement, adjacent muscletissue displays little fibrosis despite evidence of myofiberdegeneration and regeneration (increased fiber size vari-ability and centrally nucleated cells). A common sign ofmuscle damage and remodeling, significant areas ofmuscle calcification were observed in mdx and mdx-ApoE mice and occasional ectopic bone formation wasseen in mdx-ApoE muscles, as confirmed via Alizarinred staining (Fig. 5b). However, measurement of totalcalcification area in 7-month-old, Western diet-fedgroups revealed significant increase in calcification inboth mdx and mdx-ApoE without significant differencebetween dystrophin-deficient groups (Fig. 5f ). Moreover,lipid deposits were seen forming to a much larger extentboth within myofiber cells and within adipocytes ofmdx-ApoE muscle compared to mdx, as demonstratedby oil red O staining of the triceps brachii at 7 monthsof age on Western diet (Fig. 5c–d).ab dcFig. 2 Stride length measurements and hindlimb hypertrophy on chow and Western diets. Representative images of Western diet-fed groupgait-tracking at 7 months of age, scale bar 1 cm (a) and quantification of stride length in centimeter on chow and Western diets (b).Representative images of Western diet-fed hindlimbs at 7 months of age, scale bar 1 cm (c) and quantification of hindlimb width at 4 and7 months on Western diet. Chow: WT (n = 3), ApoE (n = 5), mdx (n = 3), and mdx-ApoE (n = 9). Western: WT 4 m (n = 4), 7 m (n = 6); ApoE 4 m(n = 2), 7 m (n = 7–8); mdx 4 m (n=)7, (n = 5–7); and mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 5), 7 m (n = 10). Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05 **P < 0.01***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 6 of 14At higher magnification, severe vascular leak can beseen within damaged mdx (not shown) and mdx-ApoE muscle area (Fig. 5a, right), as evidenced byerythrocytes (green arrows) being visible in muscletissue remote from blood vessels (yellow arrow), con-sistent with vascular abnormalities observed by others[28, 39, 40]. The presence of red blood cells outsideblood vessels in muscle tissue was observed in 100%of gastrocnemius muscles from mdx and mdx-ApoEmice with a 0% occurrence in WT and ApoE groups.In addition, inflammatory cell infiltration was signifi-cantly increased in mdx-ApoE gastrocnemius musclesby 7 months of age on Western diet (Fig. 5e). Quan-tification of vascular permeability via intravenousinjection of Evan’s blue dye revealed significant in-crease in dye extravasation in the gastrocnemiusmuscle of mdx and mdx-ApoE mice compared toWT controls by 8–10 months of age on chow diet(Fig. 5g). Even in less affected muscles, such as thequadriceps femoris, Evan’s blue dye leak was signifi-cantly increased in the mdx group compared to wild-type mice, although not significantly different in mdx-ApoE mice due to large variability (Fig. 5h). Also,areas of significant damage in both mdx and mdx-ApoE mice were shown to exhibit normal, if not in-creased vascular density, as visualized by H&E andCD31 (PECAM-1) stained serial sections in the tri-ceps brachii muscle, indicating that the muscleac de fbFig. 3 Gastrocnemius muscle size and composition at 7 months on chow and Western diets. Representative images of gastrocnemius from 7-month-old mice stained with Masson’s trichrome, scale bars 1000 μm (left) and 100 μm (right), on chow (a) and on Western diet (b). Quantifica-tion of total gastrocnemius area in square centimeter (c) and percentage of area composed of fat (d), fibrosis (e), and healthy myofiber (f). Chow:WT (n = 3), ApoE (n = 4), mdx (n = 10); mdx-ApoE (n = 13). Western: WT (n = 9), ApoE (n = 8), mdx (n = 7), and mdx-ApoE (n = 10). Mean + SEM.*P < 0.05 **P < 0.01 ***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 7 of 14damage observed is not the result of infarct-inducedischemia (Additional file 8: Figure S7A–B).Loss of dystrophin does not aggravate vascularatherosclerosisSince ApoE-null mice are a commonly used model ofatherosclerosis and micro-infarcts have been suggestedas causes for myofiber damage in DMD, we investigatedwhether loss of dystrophin expression in the vasculatureof ApoE mice had any effect on atherosclerosis develop-ment—a potential confounding factor that could ration-alize increased myofiber damage in mdx-ApoE mice.Analysis of atherosclerotic plaque load in the aortic root(Fig. 6a) by oil red O staining showed a significantac de fbFig. 4 Triceps brachii muscle size and composition at 4 and 7 months on Western diet. Representative images of triceps brachii stained withMasson’s trichrome, scale bars 500 μm (left) and 150 μm (right) at 4 (a) and 7 months of age (b) on Western diet. Quantification of total tricepsbrachii area in square centimeter (c) and percentage of area composed of fat (d), fibrosis (e), and healthy myofiber (f). WT 4 m (n = 4), 7 m(n = 9); ApoE 4 m (n = 3), 7 m (n = 9); mdx 4 m (n = 7), 7 m (n = 7); mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 6), 7 m (n = 10). Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05 **P < 0.01***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 8 of 14increase in plaque area in ApoE and mdx-ApoE at 4 and7 months on chow and Western diets; however, therewas no significant difference between hyperlipidemicgroups (Fig. 6c). Atherosclerotic plaque coverage in thearch, thoracic, and abdominal segments of the aorta, asquantified from Sudan IV stained whole aortas (Fig. 6b),was found to be significantly lower in mdx-ApoE groupcompared to ApoE mice in the arch at 4 months of ageand in the thoracic aorta at 7 months on a Western diet(Fig. 6d–e). On chow at 7 months of age, mdx-ApoEmice also showed lower atherosclerotic burden thanApoE controls in the aortic arch (Fig. 6f ). Together,these data demonstrate that atherosclerosis burden ofmdx-ApoE mice is equal to or less than that of ApoEmice and therefore likely does not account for the extentof muscle damage observed in mdx-ApoE mice.DiscussionOur investigation of the effects of hyperlipidemia in themdx mouse model of DMD revealed significantly wors-ened pathology in some key skeletal muscles by 7 monthsof age on chow and Western diets, with fibrotic changesobservable as early as 4 months of age. In particular,gastrocnemius and triceps brachii muscles from themdx-ApoE group showed increased fibrosis and fat infil-tration as well as decreased healthy myofiber area com-pared to all other groups, while quadriceps femoris,diaphragm, and cardiac muscle damage was not furtherexacerbated in our double-disease model. Interestingly,the plasma CK concentration did not correlate to thelevel of muscle damage observed in the mdx-ApoEmodel; however, this phenomenon has been noted in latestage disease of both mdx mice and DMD patientsa eb fc gd hFig. 5 Additional skeletal muscle histological features. Example of vascular leak in area of damage within mdx-ApoE Masson’s trichrome stainedtriceps brachii (yellow arrow indicates blood vessel and green arrows indicate red blood cells in muscle tissue), scale bars 100 μm (a). Ectopicbone (left) and calcification (right) in 4-month-old mdx-ApoE gastrocnemius stained with Alizarin red, scale bars 200 μm (b). Lipid deposits in mdx(c) and mdx-ApoE (d) oil red O stained triceps brachii, scale bars 500 μm (left) and 100 μm (right). Quantification of inflammation area (e) andcalcification area (f) at 7 months of age on Western diet. Quantification of Evan’s blue dye extravasation in gastrocnemius (g) and quadricepsfemoris (h) muscles of chow-fed wild-type, mdx and mdx-ApoE mice. Chow: WT (n = 5), mdx (n = 8), and mdx-ApoE (n = 9). Western: WT (n = 9),ApoE (n = 8), mdx (n = 5), and mdx-ApoE (n = 9). Mean + SEM *P < 0.05 **P < 0.01 ***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 9 of 14where levels of CK drop dramatically over time with theloss of myofiber area [18, 41, 42]. Consistent with previousstudies which showed that cardiac function is usually un-affected in mdx mice of this age [26, 43], our mdx-ApoEmodel only showed significant cardiac dilation comparedto mdx mice and mild fibrosis of the heart was observedin both mdx and mdx-ApoE mice alike. Despite the effectof hyperlipidemia on skeletal muscle, the lack of dramaticexacerbation of cardiac muscle pathology in our mdx-ApoE model indicates that the DMD pathogenesis inthese two muscle types may be different and not equallyaffected by increased circulating plasma lipids.Since our data corroborate the findings of a previousstudy that observed blunted plaque deposition in mdx-ApoE mice compared to ApoE mice [44] and we haveshown that there is normal or even increased vasculardensity in areas of muscle damage, the exacerbation ofmuscle pathology in mdx-ApoE is likely not muscle ne-crosis resulting from plaque-induced ischemic events.Instead, our data suggests that the increased vascularpermeability observed in both mdx and mdx-ApoEmuscle may facilitate the infiltration of plasma lipidsinto muscle tissue in the mdx-ApoE mice, which havehigh circulating cholesterol and lipids. Based on thehistological features of severe muscle lesions in mdx-ApoE mice compared to mdx mice with endogenouslylow circulating lipids, we propose that leakage of plasmalipids from blood vessels into susceptible muscle tissuesa bc de fFig. 6 Atherosclerotic plaque accumulation in the root, arch, thoracic, and abdominal aortic segments. Representative images of plaque accumulationin Western diet-fed groups at 7 months of age in the aortic root, scale bar 250 μm (a) and aortic segments: arch, thoracic, and abdominal (left to right),scale bar 0.5 cm (b). Quantification plaque area in the aortic root (c) and plaque percentage in aortic segments of Western diet-fed groups at 4 (d) and7 months of age (e), as well as chow-fed groups at 7 months (f). Chow: WT (n = 3), ApoE (n = 5), mdx (n = 4), and mdx-ApoE (n = 4–7). Western: WT4 m (n = 3–4), 7 m (n = 5–7); ApoE 4 m (n = 4), 7 m (n = 5–7); mdx 4 m (n = 2–5), 7 m (n = 3–4); and mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 5–6), 7 m (n = 5–6).Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05 compared to WT and mdx #P < 0.05 compared to all other groupsMilad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 10 of 14results in myofiber toxicity and that, the higher theplasma lipids are, the greater the downstream myofiberdamage and fibrofatty replacement.mdx-ApoE as an improved model of DMDThe mdx mouse is notorious for failing to exhibit the se-verity of muscle damage observed in DMD patients, dis-playing only increased centralized nuclei, little fibrosis,early myofiber necrosis associated with robust regener-ation (except in the diaphragm), slight reduction inmuscle force, and inconsequential cardiac phenotypes[21]. With decreased step length and dramatic exacerba-tion of muscle pathology in mdx-ApoE mice as early as4–7 months of age, we suggest that our model exhibitssuperiority to the commonly used mdx/utrn DKO modelof MD in key areas. The latter model shows early onsetof muscle dystrophy (degeneration, macrophage infiltra-tion, and necrosis) and death due to double mutation ofDGC gene products, dystrophin, and utrophin, which isuncharacteristic of DMD patients. In contrast, ourmodel offers a more human-like setting of muscle dam-age with true fibrofatty infiltration better suited fortherapeutic and pharmacological testing. While loss ofambulatory function and impairment of cardiac functionwere not observed in this study, it is possible that the 7-month time-point of our study was not sufficient forskeletal and cardiac muscle damage to incur major func-tional deficits and that studies of longer duration maylead to further pathological exacerbation. Although thegastrocnemius and triceps brachii muscles are onlymildly affected in the regular mdx model, the pattern ofmuscles affected in our hyperlipidemic model are moreconsistent with DMD pathology [45, 46]. The mechan-ism by which some muscles are affected while others arerelatively untouched remains a mystery. Some speculatethat the pattern of muscle damage in a particular type ofMD is determined by the predominant myofiber type[47]; however, DMD muscle pathology is present in bothslow and fast type-rich muscles. In addition, since in-creased vascular leak was observed in both affected andunaffected muscles (gastrocnemius and quadricepsfemoris, respectively), it seems that the pattern ofmuscle damage is more complex than simply throughincreased vascular permeability.Plasma lipids: a new spin on the vascular theory?Since pre-clinical DMD biopsies show characteristicendothelial cell swelling, injury, platelet embolism, andangiogenic impairment [48, 49], some have suggestedthat blood vessels may contribute to myofiber degenera-tion—referred to as the ‘vascular hypothesis in MD.’While mdx mice show abnormal angiogenesis andmechanotransduction [49, 50], lack of ischemic infarctsin human and mouse biopsies have casted doubts aboutthe role of the vasculature in DMD [7]. Instead, wepropose that the presence of lipid-rich infiltrates in pa-tients and in our model of hyperlipidemic DMD may actas a primary effector in disease progression, as evidencedby our histological observation of high vascular density,cholesterol clefts, red blood cell extravasation, and vas-cular leak of Evan’s blue dye into muscle tissue. Disrup-tion of endothelial barrier function caused by lack ofdystrophin expression helps explain how muscle oedemaprecedes fibrofatty replacement [51], which may be fa-cilitating the infiltration of immune cell and circulatinglipids into muscle tissue. The increase in Evan’s blue dyeleak from the vasculature in mdx and mdx-ApoE micesupports the idea that there is inherent vascular dysfunc-tion associated with dystrophin-deficiency and that, inthe context of hyperlipidemia, this may facilitate circu-lating lipids to infiltrate the muscle tissue and to causemuscle damage or affect muscle repair and remodeling.Further investigation may reveal whether infiltration ofplasma contents into muscle instigates myofiber damageand degeneration through increased oxidative stress andimmune reactivity and/or affect muscle signaling andstem cell differentiation, favoring fibrofatty remodelinginstead of myofiber regeneration. In addition, dystrophicmyofibers have previously been shown to be more sus-ceptible to oxidative stress and free radical-mediated in-jury [52–55], which is markedly increased in the contextof hyperlipidemia. The vast regions of adipocyte replace-ment and discovery of lipid-filled intramyofiber vesiclesin our mdx-ApoE muscle suggest that lipid accumula-tion in muscle may be a cause as well as a consequenceof severe muscle damage.Lipids and lipoproteins as primary mediator of DMD andpotential therapeutic targetsWith growing evidence suggesting significant plasmalipid-related abnormalities in MD patients [31, 32], it re-mains to be determined whether alterations in lipid me-tabolism in patients are primary or secondary to MD.Our observation that mdx mice on a Western diet fail toshow the expected raise in HDL particles suggests liver-related abnormalities in the regulation of plasma lipo-proteins levels, a key aspect of our work that warrants amore in-depth investigation in DMD patients. Triglycer-ides and cholesterol have been found to be elevated inDMD muscles, whereas phospholipids ratios are lowered[32] and our data implicate lipids of plasma origin inmuscle degeneration. It has been shown that a lipid-richenvironment may have detrimental effects on sarcolem-mal integrity, since the lipid content in the plasma mem-brane of muscle fibers is tightly regulated [56, 57].Moreover, many muscle-related diseases are character-ized by changes in phospholipid composition and oxida-tion which have significant effects on membraneMilad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 11 of 14stability, calcium signaling, and myofiber damage [58, 59].Although the respective contributions of various lipids(LDL, HDL, IDL, VLDL, TG, etc.) to muscle degenerationare currently unknown, oxidized-LDL is known to disruptendothelial function and to contribute significantly to thedevelopment of vascular disease while HDL plays anatheroprotective role in the circulation [60]. Since lipidlevels were elevated in the mdx-ApoE model by 4 monthsof age, before dramatic muscle damage was observed, thisindicates that it is likely the cumulative exposure to highcirculating lipids which leads to an exacerbated musclephenotype and not through an acute response. The accu-mulation of lipids in the muscle tissue over time couldhave direct toxic effect on myofibers or trigger inflamma-tion and tissue destruction, the latter mechanism beingsupported by our histological data.To err on the side of caution, while our mdx-ApoEmodel more closely matches the pathology observed inDMD patients than the mdx mouse with its endogen-ously low lipid levels, some important differences re-main. For instance, although ApoE mice have lipid levelsmore representative of the human lipid profile thanwild-type mice, the levels of circulating VLDL andchylomicron remnants are higher than those typicallyfound in humans [61]. Nevertheless, it is to be notedthat the atherosclerotic lesions in ApoE mice developspontaneously through a similar mechanism as thoseseen in hyperlipidemic humans [62]. In addition, ourmodel differs from DMD patients as mdx-ApoE micedisplayed only small changes to ambulatory function andfailed to develop significant DCM, which are importantpathological outcomes of DMD.In all, our data suggest that DMD patients could bene-fit from diets routinely recommended to hyperlipidemicpatients that attempt to raise anti-atherogenic HDLcholesterol and to lower pro-atherogenic LDL-associatedcholesterol. Finally, safely modifying a DMD patient’slipid profile with cholesterol or TG-lowering medica-tions should also be investigated. This is supported by aprevious study which found that the lipid-loweringmedication simvastatin, a member of the statin family,significantly improves muscle function and fibrosis withno evidence of rhabdomyolysis in mdx mice [63]. How-ever, this benefit was believed to be mediated throughthe drug’s antioxidant “pleiotropic” effects since mdxlipid levels, although endogenously low, were not furtherdecreased with simvastatin treatment. Interestingly,many groups have shown benefits using vascular-targeted therapies in mdx or DMD, such as nitric oxide(NO) donors and angiotensin II receptor blockers(ARBs) [64–67]. Hence, optimization of lipid-loweringor vascular-targeted approaches in DMD could offerunique therapeutic and management options that shouldbe investigated.ConclusionsIn all, our study revealed mild cardiac changes, impairedambulatory function, and dramatically worsened skeletalmuscle pathology in the hyperlipidemic mdx-ApoE modelof DMD, which better recapitulated disease severity ob-served in DMD patients than standard mdx mice. There-fore, our data suggest that circulating lipids may besignificant contributors to the development and progres-sion of DMD pathology and that murine models may ex-hibit more mild phenotypes due to their natively lowplasma lipid levels. Since clinical research has indicated po-tential vascular and lipid abnormalities in DMD, it is clearthat the pathophysiology of DMD is more complex thanpreviously understood and that lipid-lowering and vascular-targeted therapies may be beneficial in DMD treatment.Additional filesAdditional file 1: Figure S8. Muscle and cardiac data stratified at7 months on Western diet stratified by gender. WT (n = 5M, 4F); ApoE(n = 5M, 4F); mdx (n = 4M, 3F); and mdx-ApoE (n = 6M, 4F). Mean (SEM),P < 0.05 in bold. (PDF 434 kb)Additional file 2: Figure S1. Plasma lipid levels at 4 months of age onWestern diet. Plasma CK in IU/L (A), total cholesterol in mmol/L (B), HDLin mmol/L (C) and TG in mmol/L (D) at 4 months of age on Western diet.WT (n = 4), ApoE (n = 4), mdx (n = 7), and mdx-ApoE (n = 5).Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05 compared to WT and mdx #P < 0.05 compared toall other groups. (PDF 158 kb)Additional file 3: Figure S2. Heart function parameters on chow andWestern diets. Percent fractional shortening (A), cardiac output in mL/min(B), left ventricular diastolic diameter (C) and systolic diameter in mm (D),left ventricular diastolic volume (E) and stroke volume in μL (F). Chow:WT (n = 3), ApoE (n = 5), mdx (n = 6), and mdx-ApoE (n = 11). Western:WT (n = 6), ApoE (n = 7), mdx (n = 6), and mdx-ApoE (n = 11).Mean + SEM. (PDF 176 kb)Additional file 4 Figure S3. Animal body weights, heart weights, heart-body weight ratios, and cardiac histology. Body weight from 3 to7 months on chow (A) and Western diets (B). Heart weight (C) and heartto body weight ratios (D) for groups at 7 months on Western diet. Exam-ples of Masson’s trichrome stained hearts at 7 months of age on Westerndiet, scale bars 1 mm (left) and 250 μm (right) (E). Chow: WT (n = 3),ApoE (n = 5), mdx (n = 6), and mdx-ApoE (n = 11). Western: WT (n = 9),ApoE (n = 9), mdx (n = 5–11), and mdx-ApoE (n = 5–11). Mean ± SEM.*P < 0.05. (PDF 394 kb)Additional file 5: Figure S4. Gastrocnemius muscle size andcomposition at 4 months on Western diet. Quantification of totalgastrocnemius area in cm2 (A) and percentage of area composed of fat(B), fibrosis (C) and healthy myofiber (D). WT (n = 3), ApoE (n = 3), mdx(n = 6), and mdx-ApoE (n = 6). Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05 **P < 0.01***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001. (PDF 158 kb)Additional file 6: Figure S5. Quadriceps femoris muscle size andcomposition at 4 and 7 months on Western diet. Representative imagesof quadriceps femoris of Western diet-fed 7-month-old mice stained withMasson’s trichrome, scale bars 500 μm (left) and 100 μm (right) (A). Quan-tification of total rectus femoris area in cm2 (B) and percentage of areacomposed of fat (C), fibrosis (D) and healthy myofiber (E). WT 4 m (n = 4),7 m (n = 10); ApoE 4 m (n = 4), 7 m (n = 9); mdx 4 m (n = 7), 7 m(n = 7); mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 6), 7 m (n = 11). Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05**P < 0.01 ***P < 0.001 ****P < 0.0001. (PDF 346 kb)Additional file 7: Figure S6. Diaphragm muscle size and compositionat 4 and 7 months on Western diet. Representative images of diaphragmmuscle of Western diet-fed 7-month-old mice stained with Masson’s tri-chrome, scale bars 500 μm (left) and 100 μm (right) (A). Quantification ofMilad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 12 of 14total diaphragm area in square centimeter (B) and percentage of areacomposed of fat (C), fibrosis (D), and healthy myofiber (E). WT 4 m(n = 4), 7 m (n = 9); ApoE 4 m (n = 4), 7 m (n = 10); mdx 4 m (n = 7),7 m (n = 7); mdx-ApoE 4 m (n = 6), 7 m (n = 11). Mean + SEM. *P < 0.05**P < 0.01 ****P < 0.0001. (PDF 300 kb)Additional file 8: Figure S7. Triceps brachii vascular density in areas ofdamage at 7 months on Western diet. Representative images of H&E andCD31 (PECAM-1) via IHC of mdx and mdx-ApoE in triceps brachii serialsections in areas of muscle damage, scale bars 200 μm. (PDF 308 kb)AbbreviationsANOVA: Analysis of variance; ApoE: Apolipoprotein E; ARB: Angiotensin II type 1receptor blocker; BMD: Becker muscular dystrophy; CK: Creatine kinase;DCM: Dilated cardiomyopathy; DGC: Dystrophin-associated glycoproteincomplex; DKO: Double knockout; DMD: Duchenne muscular dystrophy;EDL: Extensor digitorum longus; h: Hour(s); H&E: Hematoxylin and eosin;HDL: High-density lipoprotein; IDL: Intermediate-density lipoprotein;IHC: Immunohistochemistry; KO: Knockout; LDL: Low-density lipoprotein;m: Month(s); MD: Muscular dystrophy; min: Minute(s); NO: Nitric oxide;OCT: Optimal cutting temperature; SEM: Standard error of the mean; TA: Tibialisanterior; TG: Triglyceride; VLDL: Very low-density lipoprotein; WT: Wild-typeAcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank the Dr. Douglas Albrecht, Dr. Plavi Jain Mittal,Dr. Hillarie Windish, and Dr. Brad Williams from the Jain Foundation (Seattle,USA) for their guidance and for partially supporting this study via reagentssharing. We would like to thank Tatjana Ponomarev and Lubos Bohunek (St.Paul’s Hospital, UBC) for their help with the animal experiments and Dr. PeterSchulz (Vancouver General Hospital) and Dr. Miranda Grounds (Perth, Australia)for their assistance with pathological analyses of muscle tissues. We would alsolike to thank Amrit Samra (St. Paul’s Hospital, UBC) and Ingrid Barta (BiomedicalResearch Centre, UBC) for the processing of histology.FundingThese studies have been supported by grants and salary awards from theCanadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, andthe Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (PNB).Availability of data and materialsThe datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are availablefrom the corresponding author on reasonable request.Authors’ contributionsNM, PB, FR, and SS contributed to the conception and design of research.NM performed the experiments, interpreted the results, prepared the figures,and wrote the manuscript. NM, ZW, and AYT analyzed the data. All authorsapproved final version of the manuscript.Ethics approval and consent to participateThese studies were approved by the Animal Ethics Board of UBC.Consent for publicationNot applicable.Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.Publisher’s NoteSpringer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims inpublished maps and institutional affiliations.Author details1Department of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University ofBritish Columbia (UBC), 217-2176 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BritishColumbia V6T 1Z3, Canada. 2Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation, St. Paul’sHospital, 1081 Burrard Street, Rm 166, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.3Department of Medical Genetics, Centre for Biomedical Research, Universityof British Columbia, 2222 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia,Canada.Received: 7 April 2017 Accepted: 28 July 2017References1. Ervasti JM, Campbell KP. 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Stem Cells.2014;32(4):874–85.•  We accept pre-submission inquiries •  Our selector tool helps you to find the most relevant journal•  We provide round the clock customer support •  Convenient online submission•  Thorough peer review•  Inclusion in PubMed and all major indexing services •  Maximum visibility for your researchSubmit your manuscript atwww.biomedcentral.com/submitSubmit your next manuscript to BioMed Central and we will help you at every step:Milad et al. Skeletal Muscle  (2017) 7:19 Page 14 of 14

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