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Ret function in muscle stem cells points to tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) involves sporadic expression of DUX4, which inhibits myogenesis and is pro-apoptotic. To identify target genes, we over-expressed DUX4 in myoblasts and found that the receptor tyrosine kinase Ret was significantly up-regulated, suggesting a role in FSHD. RET is dynamically expressed during myogenic progression in mouse and human myoblasts. Constitutive expression of either RET9 or RET51 increased myoblast proliferation, whereas siRNA-mediated knockdown of Ret induced myogenic differentiation. Suppressing RET activity using Sunitinib, a clinically-approved tyrosine kinase inhibitor, rescued differentiation in both DUX4-expressing murine myoblasts and in FSHD patient-derived myoblasts. Importantly, Sunitinib also increased engraftment and differentiation of FSHD myoblasts in regenerating mouse muscle. Thus, DUX4-mediated activation of Ret prevents myogenic differentiation and could contribute to FSHD pathology by preventing satellite cell-mediated repair. Rescue of DUX4-induced pathology by Sunitinib highlights the therapeutic potential of tyrosine kinase inhibitors for treatment of FSHD.

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