Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a common form of muscular dystrophy in adults that is foremost characterized by progressive wasting of muscles in the upper body. FSHD is associated with contraction of D4Z4 macrosatellite repeats on chromosome 4q35 but this contraction is pathogenic only in certain “permissive” chromosomal backgrounds. Here we show that FSHD patients carry specific single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the chromosomal region distal to the last D4Z4 repeat. This FSHD-predisposing configuration creates a canonical polyadenylation signal for transcripts derived from DUX4, a double homeobox gene of unknown function that straddles the last repeat unit and the adjacent sequence. Transfection studies revealed that DUX4 transcripts are efficiently polyadenylated and are more stable when expressed from permissive chromosomes. These findings suggest that FSHD arises through a toxic gain of function attributable to the stabilized distal DUX4 transcript.
Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) is characterized by chromatin relaxation of the D4Z4 macrosatellite array on chromosome 4 and expression of the D4Z4-encoded DUX4 gene in skeletal muscle. The more common form, autosomal dominant FSHD1, is caused by a contraction of the D4Z4 array, whereas the genetic determinants and inheritance of D4Z4 array contraction-independent FSHD2 are unclear. Here we show that mutations in SMCHD1 (structural maintenance of chromosomes flexible hinge domain containing 1) on chromosome 18 reduce SMCHD1 protein levels and segregate with genome-wide D4Z4 CpG hypomethylation in human kindreds. FSHD2 occurs in individuals who inherited both the SMCHD1 mutation and a normal-sized D4Z4 array on a chromosome 4 haplotype permissive for DUX4 expression. Reducing SMCHD1 levels in skeletal muscle results in contraction-independent DUX4 expression. Our study identifies SMCHD1 as an epigenetic modifier of the D4Z4 metastable epiallele and as a causal genetic determinant of FSHD2 and possibly other human diseases subject to epigenetic regulation.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD: MIM#158900) is a common myopathy with marked but largely unexplained clinical inter- and intra-familial variability. It is caused by contractions of the D4Z4 repeat array on chromosome 4 to 1-10 units (FSHD1), or by mutations in the D4Z4-binding chromatin modifier SMCHD1 (FSHD2). Both situations lead to a partial opening of the D4Z4 chromatin structure and transcription of D4Z4-encoded polyadenylated DUX4 mRNA in muscle. We measured D4Z4 CpG methylation in control, FSHD1 and FSHD2 individuals and found a significant correlation with the D4Z4 repeat array size. After correction for repeat array size, we show that the variability in clinical severity in FSHD1 and FSHD2 individuals is dependent on individual differences in susceptibility to D4Z4 hypomethylation. In FSHD1, for individuals with D4Z4 repeat arrays of 1-6 units, the clinical severity mainly depends on the size of the D4Z4 repeat. However, in individuals with arrays of 7-10 units, the clinical severity also depends on other factors that regulate D4Z4 methylation because affected individuals, but not non-penetrant mutation carriers, have a greater reduction of D4Z4 CpG methylation than can be expected based on the size of the pathogenic D4Z4 repeat array. In FSHD2, this epigenetic susceptibility depends on the nature of the SMCHD1 mutation in combination with D4Z4 repeat array size with dominant negative mutations being more deleterious than haploinsufficiency mutations. Our study thus identifies an epigenetic basis for the striking variability in onset and disease progression that is considered a clinical hallmark of FSHD.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), caused by partial deletion of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat on chromosome 4q, has a complex genetic and epigenetic etiology. To develop FSHD, D4Z4 contraction needs to occur on a specific genetic background. Only contractions associated with the 4qA161 haplotype cause FSHD. In addition, contraction of the D4Z4 repeat in FSHD patients is associated with significant D4Z4 hypomethylation. To date however, the methylation status of contracted repeats on non-pathogenic haplotypes has not been studied. We have performed a detailed methylation study of the D4Z4 repeat on chromosome 4q and on a highly homologous repeat on chromosome 10q. We show that patients with a D4Z4 deletion (FSHD1) have D4Z4-restricted hypomethylation. Importantly, controls with a D4Z4 contraction on a non-pathogenic chromosome 4q haplotype or on chromosome 10q also demonstrate hypomethylation. In fifteen FSHD families without D4Z4 contractions but with at least one 4qA161 haplotype (FSHD2), we observed D4Z4-restricted hypomethylation on chromosomes 4q and 10q. This finding implies that a genetic defect resulting in D4Z4 hypomethylation underlies FSHD2. In conclusion, we describe two ways to develop FSHD; (1) contraction-dependent or (2) contraction-independent D4Z4 hypomethylation on the 4qA161 subtelomere.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) deficiency has been associated with various clinical phenotypes, including an infantile multisystem disorder. The authors report a 33-month-old boy who presented with corticosteroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome in whom progressive encephalomyopathy later developed. CoQ10 was decreased both in muscle and in fibroblasts. Oral CoQ10 improved the neurologic picture but not the renal dysfunction.
Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome is a clinically heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by a reduction in mitochondrial DNA copy number. The recent discovery of mutations in the deoxyguanosine kinase (dGK) gene in patients with the hepatocerebral form of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome prompted us to screen 21 patients to determine the frequency of dGK mutations, further characterize the clinical spectrum, and correlate genotypes with phenotypes. We detected mutations in three patients (14%). One patient had a homozygous GATT duplication (nucleotides 763-766), and another had a homozygous GT deletion (nucleotides 609-610); both mutations lead to truncated proteins. The third patient was a compound heterozygote for two missense mutations (R142K and E227K) that affect critical residues of the protein. These mutations were associated with variable phenotypes, and their low frequencies suggests that dGK is not the only gene responsible for mitochondrial DNA depletion in liver. The patient with the missense mutations had isolated liver failure and responded well to liver transplantation, which may be a therapeutic option in selected cases.
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