Like other single-gene disorders, muscular dystrophy displays a range of phenotypic heterogeneity even with the same primary mutation. Identifying genetic modifiers capable of altering the course of muscular dystrophy is one approach to deciphering gene-gene interactions that can be exploited for therapy development. To this end, we used an intercross strategy in mice to map modifiers of muscular dystrophy. We interrogated genes of interest in an interval on mouse chromosome 10 associated with body mass in muscular dystrophy as skeletal muscle contributes significantly to total body mass. Using whole-genome sequencing of the two parental mouse strains combined with deep RNA sequencing, we identified the Met62Ile substitution in the dual-specificity phosphatase 6 (Dusp6) gene from the DBA/2 J (D2) mouse strain. DUSP6 is a broadly expressed dual-specificity phosphatase protein, which binds and dephosphorylates extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK), leading to decreased ERK activity. We found that the Met62Ile substitution reduced the interaction between DUSP6 and ERK resulting in increased ERK phosphorylation and ERK activity. In dystrophic muscle, DUSP6 Met62Ile is strongly upregulated to counteract its reduced activity. We found that myoblasts from the D2 background were insensitive to a specific small molecule inhibitor of DUSP6, while myoblasts expressing the canonical DUSP6 displayed enhanced proliferation after exposure to DUSP6 inhibition. These data identify DUSP6 as an important regulator of ERK activity in the setting of muscle growth and muscular dystrophy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology