Dwarf Open Reading Frame (DWORF) Gene Therapy Ameliorated Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Cardiomyopathy in Aged mdx Mice

Emily D. Morales, Yongping Yue, Thais B. Watkins, Jin Han, Xiufang Pan, Aaron M. Gibson, Bryan Hu, Omar Brito-Estrada, Gang Yao, Catherine A. Makarewich, Gopal J. Babu, Dongsheng Duan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Cardiomyopathy is a leading health threat in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Cytosolic calcium upregulation is implicated in DMD cardiomyopathy. Calcium is primarily removed from the cytosol by the sarcoendoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA). SERCA activity is reduced in DMD. Improving SERCA function may treat DMD cardiomyopathy. Dwarf open reading frame (DWORF) is a recently discovered positive regulator for SERCA, hence, a potential therapeutic target. METHODS AND RESULTS: To study DWORF’s involvement in DMD cardiomyopathy, we quantified DWORF expression in the heart of wild-type mice and the mdx model of DMD. To test DWORF gene therapy, we engineered and characterized an adeno-associated virus serotype 9–DWORF vector. To determine if this vector can mitigate DMD cardiomyopathy, we delivered it to 6-week-old mdx mice (6×1012 vector genome particles/mouse) via the tail vein. Exercise capacity, heart histology, and cardiac function were examined at 18 months of age. We found DWORF expression was significantly reduced at the transcript and protein levels in mdx mice. Adeno-associated virus serotype 9–DWORF vector significantly enhanced SERCA activity. Systemic adeno-associated virus serotype 9-DWORF therapy reduced myocardial fibrosis and improved treadmill running, electrocardiography, and heart hemodynamics. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that DWORF deficiency contributes to SERCA dysfunction in mdx mice and that DWORF gene therapy holds promise to treat DMD cardiomyopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere027480
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 7 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


  • AAV
  • DMD
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • SERCA2a
  • adeno-associated virus
  • cardiomyopathy


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