Duchenne muscular dystrophy, like other muscular dystrophies, is a progressive disorder hallmarked by muscle degeneration, inflammation, and fibrosis. Latent transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) binding protein 4 (LTBP4) is an extracellular matrix protein found in muscle. LTBP4 sequesters and inhibits a precursor form of TGFβ. LTBP4 was originally identified from a genome-wide search for genetic modifiers of muscular dystrophy in mice, where there are two different alleles. The protective form of LTBP4, which contains an insertion of 12 amino acids in the protein’s hinge region, was linked to increased sequestration of latent TGFβ, enhanced muscle membrane stability, and reduced muscle fibrosis. The deleterious form of LTBP4 protein, lacking 12 amino acids, was more susceptible to proteolysis and promoted release of latent TGF-β, and together, these data underscored the functional role of LTBP4’s hinge. Here, we generated a monoclonal human anti-LTBP4 antibody directed toward LTBP4’s hinge region. In vitro, anti-LTBP4 bound LTBP4 protein and reduced LTBP4 proteolytic cleavage. In isolated myofibers, the LTBP4 antibody stabilized the sarcolemma from injury. In vivo, anti-LTBP4 treatment of dystrophic mice protected muscle against force loss induced by eccentric contraction. Anti-LTBP4 treatment also reduced muscle fibrosis and enhanced muscle force production, including in the diaphragm muscle, where respiratory function was improved. Moreover, the anti-LTBP4 in combination with prednisone, a standard of care for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, further enhanced muscle function and protected against injury in mdx mice. These data demonstrate the potential of anti-LTBP4 antibodies to treat muscular dystrophy.
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