In vitro and in vivo tetracycline-controlled myogenic conversion of NIH-3T3 cells: Evidence of programmed cell death after muscle cell transplantation

R. D. Bo, Y. Torrente, S. Corti, M. G. D'Angelo, G. P. Comi, G. Fagiolari, S. Salani, A. Cova, F. Pisati, M. Moggio, C. Ausenda, G. Scarlato, N. Bresolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Ex vivo gene therapy of Duchenne muscular dystrophy based on autologous transplantation of genetically modified myoblasts is limited by their premature senescence. MyoD-converted fibroblasts represent an alternative source of myogenic cells. In this study the forced MyoD-dependent conversion of murine NIH-3T3 fibroblasts into myoblasts under the control of an inducible promoter silent in the presence of tetracycline was evaluated. After tetracycline withdrawal this promoter drives the transcription of MyoD in the engineered fibroblasts, inducing their myogenesis and giving rise to β-galactosidase-positive cells. MyoD-expressing fibroblasts withdrew from the cell cycle, but were unable to fuse in vitro into multinucleated myotubes. Five days following implantation of engineered fibroblasts in muscles of C57BL/10J mice we observed a sevenfold increase of β-galactosidase-positive regenerating myofibers in animals not treated with antibiotic compared with treated animals. After 1 week the number of positive fibers decreased and several apoptotic myonuclei were detected. Three weeks following implantation of MyoD-converted fibroblasts in recipient mice, no positive "blue" fiber was observed. Our results suggest that transactivation by tetracycline of MyoD may drive an in vivo myogenic conversion of NIH-3T3 fibroblasts and that, in this experimental setting, apoptosis plays a relevant role in limiting the efficacy of engineered fibroblast transplantation. This work opens the question whether apoptotic phenomena also play a general role as limiting factors of cell-mediated gene therapy of inherited muscle disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-221
Number of pages13
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001



  • Apoptosis
  • Cell transplantation
  • Inducible promoter
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation

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