Nonsense mutations are usually predicted to function as null alleles due to premature termination of protein translation. However, nonsense mutations in the DMD gene, encoding the dystrophin protein, have been associated with both the severe Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and milder Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) phenotypes. In a large survey, we identified 243 unique nonsense mutations in the DMD gene, and for 210 of these we could establish definitive phenotypes. We analyzed the reading frame predicted by exons flanking those in which nonsense mutations were found, and present evidence that nonsense mutations resulting in BMD likely do so by inducing exon skipping, confirming that exonic point mutations affecting exon definition have played a significant role in determining phenotype. We present a new model based on the combination of exon definition and intronic splicing regulatory elements for the selective association of BMD nonsense mutations with a subset of DMD exons prone to mutation-induced exon skipping.
DMD; exon skipping; nonsense mutations; Becker muscular dystrophy; splicing motifs; dystrophin
Spinal muscular atrophy is characterized by degeneration of α motor neurons in the anterior horns of the spinal cord, which leads to progressive symmetrical muscle weakness and atrophy. Spinal muscular atrophy is the leading fatal autosomal recessive disorder in infancy, and genetic counseling is an essential component of the care of families of these patients. However, little guidance is available in the published literature regarding the process and benefit of genetic counseling for families. Accordingly, the authors designed a questionnaire to assess parents’ knowledge of the disease, gauge their access to genetic counseling, and determine how parents use information gained from counseling to guide choices for future pregnancies. The questionnaire specifically targeted when genetic counseling was received, from whom, parental knowledge regarding spinal muscular atrophy genetics, parental choices regarding spinal muscular atrophy and their child, frequency of prenatal testing, perceived relevance of newborn screening, and opinions regarding the disease. Most families clearly received some type of genetic counseling. Yet how and from whom they received the information varied greatly, as did their genetic knowledge of spinal muscular atrophy. The highest percentage of families received counseling from neurologists, who may not be appropriately prepared to provide formal genetic counseling. Many respondents reported having a negative experience with genetic counseling, possibly because it occurred at the time of diagnosis or shortly afterward, a period of great emotional turmoil. These data suggest that a consistent approach for facilitating how and when genetic counseling is received is greatly needed.
spinal muscular atrophy; genetic counseling; genetic testing; carrier testing; parents’ perspectives
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease that predominantly affects motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscular atrophy and weakness. SMA arises due to insufficient survival motor neuron (SMN) protein levels as a result of homozygous disruption of the SMN1 gene. SMN upregulation is a promising and potent treatment strategy for this currently incurable condition. In this issue of the JCI, two independent research groups report novel observations in mouse models of severe SMA that provide hope that this approach will afford meaningful benefit to individuals with SMA.
Alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) is a rare, severe neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by recurrent hemiplegic episodes and distinct neurologic manifestations. AHC is usually a sporadic disorder with unknown etiology. Using exome sequencing of seven patients with AHC, and their unaffected parents, we identified de novo nonsynonymous mutations in ATP1A3 in all seven AHC patients. Subsequent sequence analysis of ATP1A3 in 98 additional patients revealed that 78% of AHC cases have a likely causal ATP1A3 mutation, including one inherited mutation in a familial case of AHC. Remarkably, six ATP1A3 mutations explain the majority of patients, including one observed in 36 patients. Unlike ATP1A3 mutations that cause rapid-onset-dystonia-parkinsonism, AHC-causing mutations revealed consistent reductions in ATPase activity without effects on protein expression. This work identifies de novo ATP1A3 mutations as the primary cause of AHC, and offers insight into disease pathophysiology by expanding the spectrum of phenotypes associated with mutations in this gene.
Bench to bedside progress has been widely anticipated for a growing number of neurodegenerative disorders. Of these, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is perhaps the best poised to capitalize on advances in targeted therapeutics development over the next few years. Several laboratories have achieved compelling success in SMA animal models using sophisticated methods for targeted delivery, repair, or increased expression of the survival motor neuron protein, SMN. The clinical community is actively collaborating to identify, develop, and validate outcome measures and biomarkers in parallel with laboratory efforts. Innovative trial design and synergistic approaches to maximize proactive care in conjunction with treatment with one or more of the promising pharmacologic and biologic therapies currently in the pipeline will maximize our chances to achieve meaningful outcomes for patients. This review highlights recent promising scientific and clinical advances bringing us ever closer to effective treatment(s) for our patients with SMA.
Spinal muscular atrophy; SMA; SMN1; SMN2; Therapeutics; Clinical trials; Sensory; Motor; AAV9; Gene therapy; Humans; Animal models; Motor neuron; Spinal cord circuitry; Anterior horn cell; Natural history; Outcomes; Phenotype; Review; RNA splicing; Preclinical
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive (AR) neuromuscular disease that is one of the most common lethal genetic disorders in children, with carrier frequencies as high as ∼1 in 35 in US Whites. As part of our genetic studies in the Hutterites from South Dakota, we identified a large 22 Mb run of homozygosity, spanning the SMA locus in an affected child, of which 10 Mb was also homozygous in three affected Hutterites from Montana, supporting a single founder origin for the mutation. We developed a haplotype-based method for identifying carriers of the SMN1 deletion that leveraged existing genome-wide SNP genotype data for ∼1400 Hutterites. In combination with two direct PCR-based assays, we identified 176 carriers of the SMN1 deletion, one asymptomatic homozygous adult and three carriers of a de novo deletion. This corresponds to a carrier frequency of one in eight (12.5%) in the South Dakota Hutterites, representing the highest carrier frequency reported to date for SMA and for an AR disease in the Hutterite population. Lastly, we show that 26 SNPs can be used to predict SMA carrier status in the Hutterites, with 99.86% specificity and 99.71% sensitivity.
spinal muscular atrophy; Hutterites; founder population; haplotype; carrier frequency; carrier screening
The test-retest reliability of the Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS) in children with SMA ≤ 30 months (mo) of age was assessed. The age at which typically developing children (TD) achieve maximum MHFMS scores was also explored.
Twenty-two children with SMA Type II [mean age=20mo; (SD)5mo; range = 9mo–30mo] were tested twice using the MHFMS. Twenty-five TD children [mean age = 18mo; (SD)7mo; range=9mo–30mo] were tested once.
The average difference between MHFMS scores for SMA children was 0.18 [1st assessment mean=12.8(SD 9.8); 2nd test mean=13.0(SD 8.8)]. Reliability was excellent (ICC1,3=0.96, SEM=1.86). TD participants had MHFMS scores ranging from 36 to 40 [mean=39.2(SD1.2)] and achieved maximum test scores at 12 months of age.
MHFMS scores in young children with SMA Type II showed excellent test-retest stability. This suggests that the MHFMS can be used reliably in this younger population for clinical trials and follow-up.
spinal muscular atrophy; test-retest reliability; Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale; outcome; MHFMS
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative motor neuron disorder resulting from a homozygous mutation of the survival of motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. The gene product, SMN protein, functions in RNA biosynthesis in all tissues. In humans, a nearly identical gene, SMN2, rescues an otherwise lethal phenotype by producing a small amount of full-length SMN protein. SMN2 copy number inversely correlates with disease severity. Identifying other novel biomarkers could inform clinical trial design and identify novel therapeutic targets.
To identify novel candidate biomarkers associated with disease severity in SMA using unbiased proteomic, metabolomic and transcriptomic approaches.
Materials and Methods:
A cross-sectional single evaluation was performed in 108 children with genetically confirmed SMA, aged 2–12 years, manifesting a broad range of disease severity and selected to distinguish factors associated with SMA type and present functional ability independent of age. Blood and urine specimens from these and 22 age-matched healthy controls were interrogated using proteomic, metabolomic and transcriptomic discovery platforms. Analyte associations were evaluated against a primary measure of disease severity, the Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS) and to a number of secondary clinical measures.
A total of 200 candidate biomarkers correlate with MHFMS scores: 97 plasma proteins, 59 plasma metabolites (9 amino acids, 10 free fatty acids, 12 lipids and 28 GC/MS metabolites) and 44 urine metabolites. No transcripts correlated with MHFMS.
In this cross-sectional study, “BforSMA” (Biomarkers for SMA), candidate protein and metabolite markers were identified. No transcript biomarker candidates were identified. Additional mining of this rich dataset may yield important insights into relevant SMA-related pathophysiology and biological network associations. Additional prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings, demonstrate sensitivity to change with disease progression, and assess potential impact on clinical trial design.
Oculodentodigital dysplasia (ODDD) is primarily an autosomal dominant human disease caused by any one of over 60 mutations in the GJA1 gene encoding the gap junction protein Cx43. In the present study, wound healing was investigated in a G60S ODDD mutant mouse model and by using dermal fibroblasts isolated from two ODDD patients harboring the p.D3N and p.V216L mutants along with dermal fibroblasts isolated from their respective unaffected relatives. Punch biopsies revealed a delay in wound closure in the G60S mutant mice in comparison to wild type littermates and this delay appeared to be due to defects in the dermal fibroblasts. While both the p.D3N and p.V216L mutants reduced gap junctional intercellular communication in human dermal fibroblasts, immunolocalization studies revealed that Cx43 gap junctions were prevalent at the cell surface of p.D3N expressing fibroblasts but greatly reduced in p.V216L expressing fibroblasts. Mutant expressing fibroblasts were further found to have reduced proliferation and migration capabilities. Finally, in response to TGFβ1, mutant expressing fibroblasts expressed significantly less alpha smooth muscle actin suggesting they were inefficient in their ability to differentiate into myofibroblasts. Collectively, our results suggest that ODDD patients may have subclinical defects in wound healing due to impaired function of dermal fibroblasts.
Cx43; GJA1; oculodentodigital dysplasia; ODDD; fibroblasts; gap junctions; phosphorylation
Spinal muscular atrophy is one of the most heterogeneous of the single-gene neuromuscular disorders. The broad spectrum of severity, with onset from the prenatal period to adulthood, presents unique challenges in the design and implementation of clinical trials. The clinical classification of subjects into severe (type 1), intermediate (type 2), and mild (type 3) subtypes has proved useful both in enhancing communication among clinicians internationally and in forging the collaborative development of outcome measures for clinical trials. Ideally, clinical trial design in spinal muscular atrophy must take into account the spinal muscular atrophy type, patient age, severity-of-affection status, nature of the therapeutic approach, timing of the proposed intervention relative to disease progression, and relative homogeneity of the cohort to be studied. Following is an overview of the challenges and opportunities, current and future therapeutic strategies, and progress to date in clinical trials in spinal muscular atrophy.
spinal muscular atrophy; clinical trials; histone deacetylase inhibitors
The Hammersmith functional motor scale for children with spinal muscular atrophy was modified to establish a standard measure of functional ability in children with non-ambulant spinal muscular atrophy types 2 and 3 in a longitudinal multi-center clinical trial. This study assessed the intra- and interrater reliability and the test–retest stability of a modified version of the scale. Both intra- and interrater reliability were established. Results indicate that the scale is reliable and stable over a 6 month period. Reliability was maintained when patient sample criteria were expanded to include children younger than 30 months and children with popliteal angles greater than 20°. These data establish the modified Hammersmith functional motor scale for children with spinal muscular atrophy as a reliable instrument for use in multi-center treatment trials in non-ambulant spinal muscular atrophy children. Our data provides additional support for the use of original scale items in terms of ease of administration, usefulness and reliability, while incorporating modifications to optimize its use in a multi-center clinical research setting.
Spinal muscular atrophy; Functional outcome measure; Clinical trials
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an important cause of death in children and SMA type I, also known as Werdnig-Hoffman disease, is the most severe form of this disease. We report 2 cases of infants with SMA I in whom a distal necrosis developed, a feature not previously reported. Poor perfusion, autonomic dysfunction, and position-dependent factors may all play a role in the development of this complication.
Manifesting carriers of DMD gene mutations may present diagnostic challenges, particularly in the absence of a family history of dystrophinopathy. We review the clinical and genetic features in fifteen manifesting carriers identified among 860 subjects within the United Dystrophinopathy Project, a large clinical dystrophinopathy cohort whose members undergo comprehensive DMD mutation analysis. We defined manifesting carriers as females with significant weakness, excluding those with only myalgias/cramps. DNA extracted from peripheral blood was used to study X chromosome inactivation patterns. Among these manifesting carriers, age at symptom onset ranged from 2 to 47 years. Seven had no family history and eight had male relatives with Duchene muscular dystrophy (DMD). Clinical severity among the manifesting carriers varied from a DMD-like progression to a very mild Becker muscular dystrophy-like phenotype. Eight had exonic deletions or duplications and six had point mutations. One patient had two mutations (an exonic deletion and a splice site mutation), consistent with a heterozygous compound state. The X chromosome inactivation pattern was skewed toward nonrandom in four out of seven informative deletions or duplications but was random in all cases with nonsense mutations. We present the results of DMD mutation analysis in this manifesting carrier cohort, including the first example of a presumably compound heterozygous DMD mutation. Our results demonstrate that improved molecular diagnostic methods facilitate the identification of DMD mutations in manifesting carriers, and confirm the heterogeneity of mutational mechanisms as well as the wide spectrum of phenotypes.
manifesting carriers; dystrophinopathy; DMD; dystrophin; X-chromosome inactivation; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Becker muscular dystrophy
Valproic acid (VPA) has demonstrated potential as a therapeutic candidate for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in vitro and in vivo.
Two cohorts of subjects were enrolled in the SMA CARNIVAL TRIAL, a non-ambulatory group of “sitters” (cohort 1) and an ambulatory group of “walkers” (cohort 2). Here, we present results for cohort 1: a multicenter phase II randomized double-blind intention-to-treat protocol in non-ambulatory SMA subjects 2–8 years of age. Sixty-one subjects were randomized 1∶1 to placebo or treatment for the first six months; all received active treatment the subsequent six months. The primary outcome was change in the modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS) score following six months of treatment. Secondary outcomes included safety and adverse event data, and change in MHFMS score for twelve versus six months of active treatment, body composition, quantitative SMN mRNA levels, maximum ulnar CMAP amplitudes, myometry and PFT measures.
At 6 months, there was no difference in change from the baseline MHFMS score between treatment and placebo groups (difference = 0.643, 95% CI = −1.22–2.51). Adverse events occurred in >80% of subjects and were more common in the treatment group. Excessive weight gain was the most frequent drug-related adverse event, and increased fat mass was negatively related to change in MHFMS values (p = 0.0409). Post-hoc analysis found that children ages two to three years that received 12 months treatment, when adjusted for baseline weight, had significantly improved MHFMS scores (p = 0.03) compared to those who received placebo the first six months. A linear regression analysis limited to the influence of age demonstrates young age as a significant factor in improved MHFMS scores (p = 0.007).
This study demonstrated no benefit from six months treatment with VPA and L-carnitine in a young non-ambulatory cohort of subjects with SMA. Weight gain, age and treatment duration were significant confounding variables that should be considered in the design of future trials.
We recently identified the X-chromosomal four and a half LIM domain gene FHL1 as the causative gene for reducing body myopathy, a disorder characterized by progressive weakness and intracytoplasmic aggregates in muscle that exert reducing activity on menadione nitro-blue-tetrazolium (NBT). The mutations detected in FHL1 affected highly conserved zinc coordinating residues within the second LIM domain and lead to the formation of aggregates when transfected into cells. Our aim was to define the clinical and morphological phenotype of this myopathy and to assess the mutational spectrum of FHL1 mutations in reducing body myopathy in a larger cohort of patients. Patients were ascertained via the detection of reducing bodies in muscle biopsy sections stained with menadione-NBT followed by clinical, histological, ultrastructural and molecular genetic analysis. A total of 11 patients from nine families were included in this study, including seven sporadic patients with early childhood onset disease and four familial cases with later onset. Weakness in all patients was progressive, sometimes rapidly so. Respiratory failure was common and scoliosis and spinal rigidity were significant in some of the patients. Analysis of muscle biopsies confirmed the presence of aggregates of FHL1 positive material in all biopsies. In two patients in whom sequential biopsies were available the aggregate load in muscle sections appeared to increase over time. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that cytoplasmic bodies were regularly seen in conjunction with the reducing bodies. The mutations detected were exclusive to the second LIM domain of FHL1 and were found in both sporadic as well as familial cases of reducing body myopathy. Six of the nine mutations affected the crucial zinc coordinating residue histidine 123. All mutations in this residue were de novo and were associated with a severe clinical course, in particular in one male patient (H123Q). Mutations in the zinc coordinating residue cysteine 153 were associated with a milder phenotype and were seen in the familial cases in which the boys were still more severely affected compared to their mothers. We expect the mild end of the spectrum to significantly expand in the future. On the severe end of the spectrum we define reducing body myopathy as a progressive disease with early, but not necessarily congenital onset, distinguishing this condition from the classic essentially non-progressive congenital myopathies.
reducing body myopathy; FHL1; aggresomes; LIM; X-linked
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is characterized by degenerating lower motor neurons and an increased incidence of congenital bone fractures. Survival motor neuron (SMN) levels are significantly reduced due to deletions/mutations in the telomeric SMN1 gene in these patients. We utilized the Smn−/− SMN2 mouse model of SMA to determine the functional role for SMN in bone remodelling. μCT analysis of lumber vertebrae, tibia and femur bones from SMA mice revealed an osteoporotic bone phenotype. Histological analysis demonstrated a thin porous cortex of cortical bone and thin trabeculae at the proximal end of the growth plate in the vertebrae of SMA mice compared to wild-type mice. Histochemical staining of the vertebrae showed the presence of abundant activated osteoclasts on the sparse trabeculae and on the endosteal surface of the thin cortex in SMA mice. Histomorphometric analysis of vertebrae from SMA mice showed an increased number of osteoclasts. Serum TRAcP5b and urinary NTx levels were elevated, consistent with increased bone resorption in these mice. SMA mice showed a significant decrease in the levels of osteoblast differentiation markers, osteocalcin, osteopontin and osterix mRNA expression; however, there were no change in the levels of alkaline phosphatase expression compared to WT mice. SMA mouse bone marrow cultures revealed an increased rate of osteoclast formation (54%) and bone resorption capacity (46%) compared to WT mice. Pre-osteoclast cells from SMA mice showed constitutive up-regulation of RANK receptor signalling molecules critical for osteoclast differentiation. Our results implicate SMN function in bone remodelling and skeletal pathogenesis in SMA. Understanding basic mechanisms of SMN action in bone remodelling may uncover new therapeutic targets for preventing bone loss/fracture risk in SMA.
spinal muscular atrophy; osteoclast; RANK ligand; survival motor neuron; mouse model
Spinal muscular atrophy is the second most common fatal childhood disorder. Core clinical features include muscle weakness caused by degenerating lower motor neurons and a high incidence of bone fractures and hypercalcemia. Fractures further compromise quality of life by progression of joint contractures or additional loss of motor function. Recent observations suggest that bone disease in spinal muscular atrophy may not be attributed entirely to lower motor neuron degeneration. The presence of the spinal muscular atrophy disease-determining survival motor neuron gene (SMN), SMN expression, and differential splicing in bone-resorbing osteoclasts was recently discovered. Its ubiquitous expression and the differential expression of splice variants suggest that SMN has specific roles in bone cell function. SMN protein also interacts with osteoclast stimulatory factor. Mouse models of human spinal muscular atrophy disease suggest a potential role of SMN protein in skeletal development. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry analysis demonstrated a substantial decrease in total bone area and poorly developed caudal vertebra in the mouse model. These mice also had pelvic bone fractures. Studies delineating SMN signaling mechanisms and gene transcription in a cell-specific manner will provide important molecular insights into the pathogenesis of bone disease in children with spinal muscular atrophy. Moreover, understanding bone remodeling in spinal muscular atrophy may lead to novel therapeutic approaches to enhance skeletal health and quality of life. This article reviews the skeletal complications associated with spinal muscular atrophy and describes a functional role for SMN protein in osteoclast development and bone resorption activity.
spinal muscular atrophy; bone fractures; SMN protein; osteoclasts
Preliminary in vitro and in vivo studies with valproic acid (VPA) in cell lines and patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) demonstrate increased expression of SMN, supporting the possibility of therapeutic benefit. We performed an open label trial of VPA in 42 subjects with SMA to assess safety and explore potential outcome measures to help guide design of future controlled clinical trials. Subjects included 2 SMA type I ages 2–3 years, 29 SMA type II ages 2–14 years and 11 type III ages 2–31 years, recruited from a natural history study. VPA was well-tolerated and without evident hepatotoxicity. Carnitine depletion was frequent and temporally associated with increased weakness in two subjects. Exploratory outcome measures included assessment of gross motor function via the modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS), electrophysiologic measures of innervation including maximum ulnar compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitudes and motor unit number estimation (MUNE), body composition and bone density via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), and quantitative blood SMN mRNA levels. Clear decline in motor function occurred in several subjects in association with weight gain; mean fat mass increased without a corresponding increase in lean mass. We observed an increased mean score on the MHFMS scale in 27 subjects with SMA type II (p≤0.001); however, significant improvement was almost entirely restricted to participants <5 years of age. Full length SMN levels were unchanged and Δ7SMN levels were significantly reduced for 2 of 3 treatment visits. In contrast, bone mineral density (p≤0.0036) and maximum ulnar CMAP scores (p≤0.0001) increased significantly.
While VPA appears safe and well-tolerated in this initial pilot trial, these data suggest that weight gain and carnitine depletion are likely to be significant confounding factors in clinical trials. This study highlights potential strengths and limitations of various candidate outcome measures and underscores the need for additional controlled clinical trials with VPA targeting more restricted cohorts of subjects.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) presents challenges in (i) monitoring disease activity and predicting progression, (ii) designing trials that allow rapid assessment of candidate therapies, and (iii) understanding molecular causes and consequences of the disease. Validated biomarkers of SMA motor and non-motor function would offer utility in addressing these challenges. Our objectives were (i) to discover additional markers from the Biomarkers for SMA (BforSMA) study using an immunoassay platform, and (ii) to validate the putative biomarkers in an independent cohort of SMA patients collected from a multi-site natural history study (NHS).
BforSMA study plasma samples (N = 129) were analyzed by immunoassay to identify new analytes correlating to SMA motor function. These immunoassays included the strongest candidate biomarkers identified previously by chromatography. We selected 35 biomarkers to validate in an independent cohort SMA type 1, 2, and 3 samples (N = 158) from an SMA NHS. The putative biomarkers were tested for association to multiple motor scales and to pulmonary function, neurophysiology, strength, and quality of life measures. We implemented a Tobit model to predict SMA motor function scores.
12 of the 35 putative SMA biomarkers were significantly associated (p<0.05) with motor function, with a 13th analyte being nearly significant. Several other analytes associated with non-motor SMA outcome measures. From these 35 biomarkers, 27 analytes were selected for inclusion in a commercial panel (SMA-MAP) for association with motor and other functional measures.
Discovery and validation using independent cohorts yielded a set of SMA biomarkers significantly associated with motor function and other measures of SMA disease activity. A commercial SMA-MAP biomarker panel was generated for further testing in other SMA collections and interventional trials. Future work includes evaluating the panel in other neuromuscular diseases, for pharmacodynamic responsiveness to experimental SMA therapies, and for predicting functional changes over time in SMA patients.
The universal presence of a gene (SMN2) nearly identical to the mutated SMN1 gene responsible for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) has proved an enticing incentive to therapeutics development. Early disappointments from putative SMN-enhancing agent clinical trials have increased interest in improving the assessment of SMN expression in blood as an early “biomarker” of treatment effect.
A cross-sectional, single visit, multi-center design assessed SMN transcript and protein in 108 SMA and 22 age and gender-matched healthy control subjects, while motor function was assessed by the Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS). Enrollment selectively targeted a broad range of SMA subjects that would permit maximum power to distinguish the relative influence of SMN2 copy number, SMA type, present motor function, and age.
SMN2 copy number and levels of full-length SMN2 transcripts correlated with SMA type, and like SMN protein levels, were lower in SMA subjects compared to controls. No measure of SMN expression correlated strongly with MHFMS. A key finding is that SMN2 copy number, levels of transcript and protein showed no correlation with each other.
This is a prospective study that uses the most advanced techniques of SMN transcript and protein measurement in a large selectively-recruited cohort of individuals with SMA. There is a relationship between measures of SMN expression in blood and SMA type, but not a strong correlation to motor function as measured by the MHFMS. Low SMN transcript and protein levels in the SMA subjects relative to controls suggest that these measures of SMN in accessible tissues may be amenable to an “early look” for target engagement in clinical trials of putative SMN-enhancing agents. Full length SMN transcript abundance may provide insight into the molecular mechanism of phenotypic variation as a function of SMN2 copy number.
Paroxysmal Kinesigenic Dyskinesia with Infantile Convulsions (PKD/IC) is an episodic movement disorder with autosomal dominant inheritance and high penetrance, but the causative gene is unknown. We have now identified four truncating mutations involving the PRRT2 gene in the vast majority (24/25) of well characterized families with PKD/IC. PRRT2 truncating mutations were also detected in 28 of 78 additional families. The PRRT2 gene encodes a proline-rich transmembrane protein of unknown function that has been reported to interact with the t-SNARE, SNAP25. PRRT2 localizes to axons but not to dendritic processes in primary neuronal culture and mutants associated with PKD/IC lead to dramatically reduced PRRT2 protein levels leading ultimately to neuronal hyperexcitability that manifests in vivo as PKD/IC.
Reliable outcome measures that reflect the underlying disease process and correlate with motor function in children with SMA are needed for clinical trials.
Maximum ulnar compound muscle action potential (CMAP) data were collected at 2 visits over a 4–6 week period in children with SMA types II and III, ages 2–17 years old, at 4 academic centers. Primary functional outcome measures included the Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (MHFMS) and MHFMS-Extend.
CMAP negative peak amplitude and area showed excellent discrimination between the ambulatory and non-ambulatory SMA cohorts (ROC=0.88). CMAP had excellent test-retest reliability (ICC=0.96–0.97, n=64) and moderate to strong correlation with the MHFMS and MHFMS-Extend (r=0.61–0.73, n=68, p<0.001).
Maximum ulnar CMAP amplitude and area is a feasible, valid and reliable outcome measure for use in pediatric multicenter clinical trials in SMA. CMAP correlates well with motor function and has potential value as a relevant surrogate for disease status.
spinal muscular atrophy; pediatrics; compound muscle action potential; motor function; outcome measures
Ciliary dysfunction leads to a broad range of overlapping phenotypes, termed collectively as ciliopathies. This grouping is underscored by genetic overlap, where causal genes can also contribute modifying alleles to clinically distinct disorders. Here we show that mutations in TTC21B/IFT139, encoding a retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, cause both isolated nephronophthisis (NPHP) and syndromic Jeune Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy (JATD). Moreover, although systematic medical resequencing of a large, clinically diverse ciliopathy cohort and matched controls showed a similar frequency of rare changes, in vivo and in vitro evaluations unmasked a significant enrichment of pathogenic alleles in cases, suggesting that TTC21B contributes pathogenic alleles to ∼5% of ciliopathy patients. Our data illustrate how genetic lesions can be both causally associated with diverse ciliopathies, as well as interact in trans with other disease-causing genes, and highlight how saturated resequencing followed by functional analysis of all variants informs the genetic architecture of disorders.
Multiple lines of evidence have suggested that valproic acid (VPA) might benefit patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The SMA CARNIVAL TRIAL was a two part prospective trial to evaluate oral VPA and l-carnitine in SMA children. Part 1 targeted non-ambulatory children ages 2–8 in a 12 month cross over design. We report here Part 2, a twelve month prospective, open-label trial of VPA and L-carnitine in ambulatory SMA children.
This study involved 33 genetically proven type 3 SMA subjects ages 3–17 years. Subjects underwent two baseline assessments over 4–6 weeks and then were placed on VPA and L-carnitine for 12 months. Assessments were performed at baseline, 3, 6 and 12 months. Primary outcomes included safety, adverse events and the change at 6 and 12 months in motor function assessed using the Modified Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale Extend (MHFMS-Extend), timed motor tests and fine motor modules. Secondary outcomes included changes in ulnar compound muscle action potential amplitudes (CMAP), handheld dynamometry, pulmonary function, and Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory scores.
Twenty-eight subjects completed the study. VPA and carnitine were generally well tolerated. Although adverse events occurred in 85% of subjects, they were usually mild and transient. Weight gain of 20% above body weight occurred in 17% of subjects. There was no significant change in any primary outcome at six or 12 months. Some pulmonary function measures showed improvement at one year as expected with normal growth. CMAP significantly improved suggesting a modest biologic effect not clinically meaningful.
This study, coupled with the CARNIVAL Part 1 study, indicate that VPA is not effective in improving strength or function in SMA children. The outcomes used in this study are feasible and reliable, and can be employed in future trials in SMA.