Phosphorylation within the cysteine-rich region of dystrophin enhances its association with β-dystroglycan and identifies a potential novel therapeutic target for skeletal muscle wasting

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Mutations in dystrophin lead to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is among the most common human genetic disorders. Dystrophin nucleates assembly of the dystrophin–glycoprotein complex (DGC), and a defective DGC disrupts an essential link between the intracellular cytoskeleton and the basal lamina, leading to progressive muscle wasting. In vitro studies have suggested that dystrophin phosphorylation may affect interactions with actin or syntrophin, yet whether this occurs in vivo or affects protein function remains unknown. Utilizing nanoflow liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, we identified 18 phosphorylated residues within endogenous dystrophin. Mutagenesis revealed that phosphorylation at S3059 enhances the dystrophin–dystroglycan interaction and 3D modeling utilizing the Rosetta software program provided a structural model for how phosphorylation enhances this interaction. These findings demonstrate that phosphorylation is a key mechanism regulating the interaction between dystrophin and the DGC and reveal that posttranslational modification of a single amino acid directly modulates the function of dystrophin.

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