Pulsed glucocorticoids enhance dystrophic muscle performance through epigenetic-metabolic reprogramming

Mattia Quattrocelli*, Aaron S. Zelikovich, Zhen Jiang, Clara Bien Peek, Alexis R. Demonbreun, Nancy L. Kuntz, Grant D. Barish, Saptarsi M. Haldar, Joseph Bass, Elizabeth M. McNally

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In humans, chronic glucocorticoid use is associated with side effects like muscle wasting, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. Intermittent steroid dosing has been proposed in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy patients to mitigate the side effects seen with daily steroid intake. We evaluated biomarkers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy patients, finding that, compared with chronic daily steroid use, weekend steroid use was associated with reduced serum insulin, free fatty acids, and branched chain amino acids, as well as reduction in fat mass despite having similar BMIs. We reasoned that intermittent prednisone administration in dystrophic mice would alter muscle epigenomic signatures, and we identified the coordinated action of the glucocorticoid receptor, KLF15 and MEF2C as mediators of a gene expression program driving metabolic reprogramming and enhanced nutrient utilization. Muscle lacking Klf15 failed to respond to intermittent steroids. Furthermore, coadministration of the histone acetyltransferase inhibitor anacardic acid with steroids in mdx mice eliminated steroid-specific epigenetic marks and abrogated the steroid response. Together, these findings indicate that intermittent, repeated exposure to glucocorticoids promotes performance in dystrophic muscle through an epigenetic program that enhances nutrient utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere132402
JournalJCI Insight
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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