Glucocorticoids Improve Myogenic Differentiation In Vitro by Suppressing the Synthesis of Versican, a Transitional Matrix Protein Overexpressed in Dystrophic Skeletal Muscles Academic Article uri icon


  • In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a dysregulated extracellular matrix (ECM) directly exacerbates pathology. Glucocorticoids are beneficial therapeutics in DMD, and have pleiotropic effects on the composition and processing of ECM proteins in other biological contexts. The synthesis and remodelling of a transitional versican-rich matrix is necessary for myogenesis; whether glucocorticoids modulate this transitional matrix is not known. Here, versican expression and processing were examined in hindlimb and diaphragm muscles from mdx dystrophin-deficient mice and C57BL/10 wild type mice. V0/V1 versican (Vcan) mRNA transcripts and protein levels were upregulated in dystrophic compared to wild type muscles, especially in the more severely affected mdx diaphragm. Processed versican (versikine) was detected in wild type and dystrophic muscles, and immunoreactivity was highly associated with newly regenerated myofibres. Glucocorticoids enhanced C2C12 myoblast fusion by modulating the expression of genes regulating transitional matrix synthesis and processing. Specifically, Tgfβ1, Vcan and hyaluronan synthase-2 (Has2) mRNA transcripts were decreased by 50% and Adamts1 mRNA transcripts were increased three-fold by glucocorticoid treatment. The addition of exogenous versican impaired myoblast fusion, whilst glucocorticoids alleviated this inhibition in fusion. In dystrophic mdx muscles, versican upregulation correlated with pathology. We propose that versican is a novel and relevant target gene in DMD, given its suppression by glucocorticoids and that in excess it impairs myoblast fusion, a process key for muscle regeneration.

publication date

  • 2017