P2X7 purinoceptor as a therapeutic target in muscular dystrophies

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Mutations in the dystrophin and sarcoglycans genes result in muscular dystrophies causing severe disability and premature death and where no effective treatment is available. New therapeutic approaches targeting secondary disease mechanisms have a strong translational potential. Dystrophic muscle damage triggers release of ATP whilst loss of ecto-ATPase activity of sarcoglycan further elevates extracellular ATP (eATP) levels. Such a high eATP activates P2X7 purinoceptors on immune cells; these contribute to chronic inflammatory and immune responses that exacerbate the dystrophic pathology. Dystrophin mutations coincide with a significant P2X7 upregulation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) muscle and alter receptor signalling in mouse dystrophic myoblasts and myofibers. P2X7 overexpression combined with the eATP-rich environment lead to cell dysfunction and death and ultimately to ineffective regeneration. P2X7 is therefore a therapeutic target for reducing damaging inflammation and supporting the repair of dystrophic muscles. Accordingly, genetic ablation and pharmacological inhibition of the eATP-P2X7 axis alleviated dystrophic phenotypes in mouse models of dystrophinopathy and sarcoglycanopathy. Thus, P2X7 inhibitors are good candidates for rapid re-purposing for the treatment of these highly debilitating diseases. Such a therapy is not constrained by causative mutations, so it would be suitable for all patients. Moreover, it appears effective in alleviating both muscle and non-muscle symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-45
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pharmacology
Early online date20 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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