Epigenetic control of myogenic identity of human muscle stem cells in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

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In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the absence of the subsarcolemmal dystrophin protein leads to repeated myofiber damages inducing cycles of muscle regeneration that is driven by muscle stem cells (MuSCs). With time, MuSC regenerative capacities are overwhelmed, leading to fibrosis and muscle atrophy. Whether MuSCs from DMD muscle have intrinsic defects that limit regenerative potential or are disrupted by their degenerative/regenerative environment is unclear. We investigated cell behavior and gene expression in human using MuSCs derived from DMD or healthy muscles. We found that proliferation, differentiation and fusion were not altered in DMD-MuSCs, but with time, they lost their myogenic identity twice as fast as healthy MuSCs. The rapid drift towards a fibroblast-like cell identity was observed at the clonal level, and resulted from the altered expression of epigenetic enzymes required to maintain the myogenic cell fate. Indeed, the re-expression of CBX3 , SMC3 , H2AFV and H3F3B prevented the MuSC identity drift. Amongst the epigenetic changes, a closing of chromatin at the gene encoding the transcription factor MEF2B caused a down-regulation of its expression and a loss of the myogenic fate. Thus, MEF2B is a key mediator of the myogenic identity in human MuSCs, that is altered in DMD pathology.

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