Downregulation of dystrophin expression occurs across diverse tumors, correlates with the age of onset, staging and reduced survival of patients

Nancy Alnassar, Malgorzata Borczyk, Georgia Tsagkogeorga, Michal Korostynski, Namshik Han, Dariusz C. Górecki

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Altered dystrophin expression was found in some tumors and recent studies identified a developmental onset of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Given that embryogenesis and carcinogenesis share many mechanisms, we analyzed a broad spectrum of tumors to establish whether dystrophin alteration evokes related outcomes. Transcriptomic, proteomic, and mutation datasets from fifty tumor tissues and matching controls (10,894 samples) and 140 corresponding tumor cell lines were analyzed. Interestingly, dystrophin transcripts and protein expression were found widespread across healthy tissues and at housekeeping gene levels. In 80% of tumors, DMD expression was reduced due to transcriptional downregulation and not somatic mutations. The full-length transcript encoding Dp427 was decreased in 68% of tumors, while Dp71 variants showed variability of expression. Notably, low expression of dystrophins was associated with a more advanced stage, older age of onset, and reduced survival across different tumors. Hierarchical clustering analysis of DMD transcripts distinguished malignant from control tissues. Transcriptomes of primary tumors and tumor cell lines with low DMD expression showed enrichment of specific pathways in the differentially expressed genes. Pathways consistently identified: ECM-receptor interaction, calcium signaling, and PI3K-Akt are also altered in DMD muscle. Therefore, the importance of this largest known gene extends beyond its roles identified in DMD, and certainly into oncology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1378
Number of pages28
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2023


  • DMD
  • duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • dystrophin
  • malignancy
  • cancer
  • sarcoma

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