Sarcolemma-associated neuronal NOS (nNOS) plays a critical role in normal muscle physiology. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the loss of sarcolemmal nNOS leads to functional ischemia and muscle damage; however, the mechanism of nNOS subcellular localization remains incompletely understood. According to the prevailing model, nNOS is recruited to the sarcolemma by syntrophin, and in DMD this localization is altered. Intriguingly, the presence of syntrophin on the membrane does not always restore sarcolemmal nNOS. Thus, we wished to determine whether dystrophin functions in subcellular localization of nNOS and which regions may be necessary. Using in vivo transfection of dystrophin deletion constructs, we show that sarcolemmal targeting of nNOS was dependent on the spectrin-like repeats 16 and 17 (R16/17) within the rod domain. Treatment of mdx mice (a DMD model) with R16/17-containing synthetic dystrophin genes effectively ameliorated histological muscle pathology and improved muscle strength as well as exercise performance. Furthermore, sarcolemma-targeted nNOS attenuated α-adrenergic vasoconstriction in contracting muscle and improved muscle perfusion during exercise as measured by Doppler and microsphere circulation. In summary, we have identified the dystrophin spectrin-like repeats 16 and 17 as a novel scaffold for nNOS sarcolemmal targeting. These data suggest that muscular dystrophy gene therapies based on R16/17-containing dystrophins may yield better clinical outcomes than the current therapies.
Yi Lai, Gail D. Thomas, Yongping Yue, Hsiao T. Yang, Dejia Li, Chun Long, Luke Judge, Brian Bostick, Jeffrey S. Chamberlain, Ronald L. Terjung, Dongsheng Duan