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Autophagic dysfunction and autophagosome escape in the mdx mus musculus model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

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Acta Physiologica

Published online on


Aim Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by the absence of functional dystrophin protein and results in a host of secondary effects. Emerging evidence suggests that dystrophic pathology includes decreased pro‐autophagic signalling and suppressed autophagic flux in skeletal muscle, but the relationship between autophagy and disease progression is unknown. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the extent to which basal autophagy changes with disease progression. We hypothesized that autophagy impairment would increase with advanced disease. Methods To test this hypothesis, 7‐week‐old and 17‐month‐old dystrophic diaphragms were compared to each other and age‐matched controls. Results Changes in protein markers of autophagy indicate impaired autophagic stimulation through AMPK, however, robust pathway activation in dystrophic muscle, independent of disease severity. Relative protein abundance of p62, an inverse correlate of autophagic degradation, was dramatically elevated with disease regardless of age. Likewise, relative protein abundance of Lamp2, a lysosome marker, was decreased twofold at 17 months of age in dystrophic muscle and was confirmed, along with mislocalization, in histological samples, implicating lysosomal dysregulation in this process. In dystrophic muscle, autophagosome‐sized p62‐positive foci were observed in the extracellular space. Moreover, we found that autophagosomes were released from both healthy and dystrophic diaphragms into the extracellular environment, and the occurrence of autophagosome escape was more frequent in dystrophic muscle. Conclusion These findings suggest autophagic dysfunction proceeds independent of disease progression and blunted degradation of autophagosomes is due in part to decreased lysosome abundance, and contributes to autophagosomal escape to the extracellular space.