Abstract: Muscle weakness and atrophy are clinical hallmarks of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). Muscle stem cells, which contribute to skeletal muscle growth and repair, are also affected in this disease. However, the molecular mechanisms leading to this defective activity and the impact on the disease severity are still elusive. Here, we explored through an unbiased approach the molecular signature leading to myogenic cell defects in DM1. Single cell RNAseq data revealed the presence of a specific subset of DM1 myogenic cells expressing a senescence signature, characterized by the high expression of genes related to senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). This profile was confirmed using different senescence markers in vitro and in situ. The excessive accumulation of intranuclear RNA foci in DM1 senescent cells compared to non-senescent cells suggests that RNA-mediated toxicity contribute to senescence induction. High expression of IL-6, a prominent SASP cytokine, in the serum of DM1 patients was identified as a biomarker correlating with muscle weakness and functional capacity limitations. Drug screening revealed that the BCL-XL inhibitor (A1155463), a senolytic drug, can specifically target senescent DM1 myoblasts to induce their apoptosis and reduce their SASP. Removal of senescent cells re-established the myogenic function of the non-senescent DM1 myoblasts, which displayed improved proliferation and differentiation capacity in vitro; and enhanced engraftment following transplantation in vivo. Altogether this study presents a well-defined senescent molecular signature in DM1 untangling part of the pathological mechanisms observed in the disease; additionally, we demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting these defective cells with senolytics to restore myogenesis.

Journal Link: 10.1101/2022.06.22.497227 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar