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1.  Multidisciplinary study of a new ClC-1 mutation causing myotonia congenita: a paradigm to understand and treat ion channelopathies 
The FASEB Journal  2016;30(10):3285-3295.
Myotonia congenita is an inherited disease that is characterized by impaired muscle relaxation after contraction caused by loss-of-function mutations in the skeletal muscle ClC-1 channel. We report a novel ClC-1 mutation, T335N, that is associated with a mild phenotype in 1 patient, located in the extracellular I-J loop. The purpose of this study was to provide a solid correlation between T335N dysfunction and clinical symptoms in the affected patient as well as to offer hints for drug development. Our multidisciplinary approach includes patch-clamp electrophysiology on T335N and ClC-1 wild-type channels expressed in tsA201 cells, Western blot and quantitative PCR analyses on muscle biopsies from patient and unaffected individuals, and molecular dynamics simulations using a homology model of the ClC-1 dimer. T335N channels display reduced chloride currents as a result of gating alterations rather than altered surface expression. Molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the I-J loop might be involved in conformational changes that occur at the dimer interface, thus affecting gating. Finally, the gene expression profile of T335N carrier showed a diverse expression of K+ channel genes, compared with control individuals, as potentially contributing to the phenotype. This experimental paradigm satisfactorily explained myotonia in the patient. Furthermore, it could be relevant to the study and therapy of any channelopathy.—Imbrici, P., Altamura, C., Camerino, G. M., Mangiatordi, G. F., Conte, E., Maggi, L., Brugnoni, R., Musaraj, K., Caloiero, R., Alberga, D., Marsano, R. M., Ricci, G., Siciliano, G., Nicolotti, O., Mora, M., Bernasconi, P., Desaphy, J.-F., Mantegazza, R., Camerino, D. C. Multidisciplinary study of a new ClC-1 mutation causing myotonia congenita: a paradigm to understand and treat ion channelopathies.
PMCID: PMC5024700  PMID: 27324117
chloride channel; gene expression; molecular dynamics; patch-clamp; skeletal muscle
2.  A novel clinical tool to classify facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy phenotypes 
Journal of Neurology  2016;263:1204-1214.
Based on the 7-year experience of the Italian Clinical Network for FSHD, we revised the FSHD clinical form to describe, in a harmonized manner, the phenotypic spectrum observed in FSHD. The new Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Form (CCEF) defines various clinical categories by the combination of different features. The inter-rater reproducibility of the CCEF was assessed between two examiners using kappa statistics by evaluating 56 subjects carrying the molecular marker used for FSHD diagnosis. The CCEF classifies: (1) subjects presenting facial and scapular girdle muscle weakness typical of FSHD (category A, subcategories A1–A3), (2) subjects with muscle weakness limited to scapular girdle or facial muscles (category B subcategories B1, B2), (3) asymptomatic/healthy subjects (category C, subcategories C1, C2), (4) subjects with myopathic phenotype presenting clinical features not consistent with FSHD canonical phenotype (D, subcategories D1, D2). The inter-rater reliability study showed an excellent concordance of the final four CCEF categories with a κ equal to 0.90; 95 % CI (0.71; 0.97). Absolute agreement was observed for categories C and D, an excellent agreement for categories A [κ = 0.88; 95 % CI (0.75; 1.00)], and a good agreement for categories B [κ = 0.79; 95 % CI (0.57; 1.00)]. The CCEF supports the harmonized phenotypic classification of patients and families. The categories outlined by the CCEF may assist diagnosis, genetic counseling and natural history studies. Furthermore, the CCEF categories could support selection of patients in randomized clinical trials. This precise categorization might also promote the search of genetic factor(s) contributing to the phenotypic spectrum of disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00415-016-8123-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4893383  PMID: 27126453
FSHD; Clinical phenotype; Diagnostic criteria; Disease registry; Disease classification
3.  Disease awareness in myotonic dystrophy type 1: an observational cross-sectional study 
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (Steinert’s disease or DM1), the most common form of autosomal dominant muscular dystrophy in adults, is a multisystem disorder, affecting skeletal muscle as well as eyes, heart, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, and central nervous system, finally responsible of increasing disabilities and secondary social consequences. To date, DM1-related brain involvement represents a challenging field of research. It is well known that DM1 patients frequently present neuropsychological disturbances and psychiatric comorbidities among which reduced awareness of disease burden and its progression, also defined as anosognosia, is common in clinical practice, this leading to secondary misattribution of symptoms, delay in timely diagnostic procedures and low compliance to treatment.
Here we present an observational cross sectional study in which disease-related cognitive dysfunctions and quality of life were assessed by a protocol finally designed to estimate the prevalence of disease awareness in a sample of 65 adult-onset DM1 patients.
Our analysis showed that in DM1 patients several cognitive functions, including executive and mnesic domains with visuo-spatial involvement, were affected. The assessment of anosognosia revealed that a high percentage (51.6 %) of DM1 subjects was disease unaware. The reduced illness awareness occurs across different physical and life domains, and it appears more prominent in Activities and Independence domains investigated by the Individualized Neuromuscular Quality Of Life (INQoL) questionnaire. Moreover, the unawareness resulted significantly related (at p <0.05 and p < 0.01) to the performance failure in cognitive tests, specifically in the domains of visuo-spatial memory, cognitive flexibility and conceptualization.
The obtained data confirm, by a systematic analysis, what’s the common clinical perceiving of disease unawareness in Steinert’s disease, this related to the already known cognitive-behavioural impairment of frontal type in affected patients. We believe that a deep knowledge of this aspect will be useful for medical practice in the management of patients with DM1, also for guidance in occupational and social interventions, definition of outcome measures and in preparation of trial readiness.
PMCID: PMC4820880  PMID: 27044540
Myotonic dystrophy type 1; Steinert’s disease; Neuropsychological impairment; Disease unawareness; Quality of life
4.  Clinical expression of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy in carriers of 1–3 D4Z4 reduced alleles: experience of the FSHD Italian National Registry 
BMJ Open  2016;6(1):e007798.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy type 1 (FSHD1) has been genetically linked to reduced numbers (≤8) of D4Z4 repeats at 4q35. Particularly severe FSHD cases, characterised by an infantile onset and presence of additional extra-muscular features, have been associated with the shortest D4Z4 reduced alleles with 1–3 repeats (1–3 DRA). We searched for signs of perinatal onset and evaluated disease outcome through the systematic collection of clinical and anamnestic records of de novo and familial index cases and their relatives, carrying 1–3 DRA.
66 index cases and 33 relatives carrying 1–3 DRA.
The clinical examination was performed using the standardised FSHD evaluation form with validated inter-rater reliability. To investigate the earliest signs of disease, we designed the Infantile Anamnestic Questionnaire (IAQ). Comparison of age at onset was performed using the non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum or Kruskal-Wallis test. Comparison of the FSHD score was performed using a general linear model and Wald test. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to estimate the age-specific cumulative motor impairment risk.
No patients had perinatal onset. Among index cases, 36 (54.5%) showed the first signs by 10 years of age. The large majority of patients with early disease onset (26 out of 36, 72.2%) were de novo; whereas the majority of patients with disease onset after 10 years of age were familial (16, 53.3%). Comparison of the disease severity outcome between index cases with age at onset before and over 10 years of age, failed to detect statistical significance (Wald test p value=0.064). Of 61 index cases, only 17 (27.9%) presented extra-muscular conditions. Relatives carrying 1–3 DRA showed a large clinical variability ranging from healthy subjects, to patients with severe motor impairment.
The size of the D4Z4 allele is not always predictive of severe clinical outcome. The high degree of clinical variability suggests that additional factors contribute to the phenotype complexity.
PMCID: PMC4716236  PMID: 26733561
5.  A mutation in the CASQ1 gene causes a vacuolar myopathy with accumulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum protein aggregates 
Human mutation  2014;35(10):1163-1170.
A missense mutation in the calsequestrin-1 gene (CASQ1) was found in a group of patients with a myopathy characterized by weakness, fatigue and the presence of large vacuoles containing characteristic inclusions resulting from the aggregation of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) proteins. The mutation affects a conserved aspartic acid in position 244 (p.Asp244Gly) located in one of the high-affinity Ca2+ binding sites of CASQ1 and alters the kinetics of Ca2+ release in muscle fibers. Expression of the mutated CASQ1 protein in COS-7 cells showed a markedly reduced ability in forming elongated polymers, while both in cultured myotubes and in in-vivo mouse fibers induced the formation of electron-dense SR vacuoles containing aggregates of the mutant CASQ1 protein that resemble those observed in muscle biopsies of patients. Altogether, these results support the view that a single missense mutation in the CASQ1 gene causes the formation of abnormal SR vacuoles containing aggregates of CASQ1 and other SR proteins, results in altered Ca2+ release in skeletal muscle fibers and, hence, is responsible for the clinical phenotype observed in these patients.
PMCID: PMC4177304  PMID: 25116801
aggregate myopathy; CASQ1; calsequestrin; sarcoplasmic reticulum; skeletal muscle
6.  A multi-parametric protocol to study exercise intolerance in McArdle's disease 
Acta Myologica  2015;34(2-3):120-125.
McArdle's disease is the most common metabolic myopathy of muscle carbohydrate metabolism, due to deficiency of myophosphorylase and alteration of glycogen breakdown in muscle. The clinical manifestations usually begin in young adulthood, with exercise intolerance, exercise-induced muscle cramps, pain and recurrent episodes of myoglobinuria. Many patients experience the second wind phenomenon, characterized by an improved tolerance for aerobic exercise approximately after eight minutes of motor activity, secondary to the increased availability of blood glucose and free fatty acids associated to an enhanced glucose uptake by muscle cells. In this study, we aimed to test a multi-parametric protocol in order to detect the impairment of muscular metabolism and motor performance in patients with McArdle's disease. We enrolled 5 patients and 5 age-matched healthy subjects, that were evaluated by: (01) monitoring of physical activity with an electronic armband; (02) testing of cardiopulmonary, metabolic and respiratory responses to exercise with a cardiopulmonary exercise test and analyzing muscle fatigue during exercise test by surface electromyography (04) evaluating blood lactate and oxidative stress biomarkers at rest and during exercise. The patients were tested at baseline and after three days of carbohydrate-rich diet integrated with tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate and creatine. The multiparametric protocol proved to be useful to detect the oxidative capacity impairment and the second wind phenomenon of patients. We did not observe any significant differences of muscle metabolic response during the exercise test after three days of carbohydrate-rich diet.
PMCID: PMC4859075  PMID: 27199539
McArdle disease; muscle exercise; myophosphorylase deficiency
7.  Muscle exercise in limb girdle muscular dystrophies: pitfall and advantages 
Acta Myologica  2015;34(1):3-8.
Different genetic mutations underlying distinct pathogenic mechanisms have been identified as cause of muscle fibers degeneration and strength loss in limb girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD). As a consequence, exercise tolerance is affected in patients with LGMD, either as a direct consequence of the loss of muscle fibers or secondary to the sedentary lifestyle due to the motor impairment. It has been debated for many years whether or not muscle exercise is beneficial or harmful for patients with myopathic disorders. In fact, muscular exercise would be considered in helping to hinder the loss of muscle tissue and strength. On the other hand, muscle structural defects in LGMD can result in instability of the sarcolemma, making it more likely to induce muscle damage as a consequence of intense muscle contraction, such as that performed during eccentric training. Several reports have suggested that supervised aerobic exercise training is safe and may be considered effective in improving oxidative capacity and muscle function in patients with LGMD, such as LGMD2I, LGMD2L, LGMD2A. More or less comfortable investigation methods applied to assess muscle function and structure can be useful to detect the beneficial effects of supervised training in LGMD. However, it is important to note that the available trials assessing muscle exercise in patients with LGMD have often involved a small number of patients, with a wide clinical heterogeneity and a different experimental design. Based on these considerations, resistance training can be considered part of the rehabilitation program for patients with a limb-girdle type of muscular dystrophy, but it should be strictly supervised to assess its effects and prevent possible development of muscle damage.
PMCID: PMC4478773  PMID: 26155063
limb girdle muscle dystrophies; muscle fatigue; muscle exercise
8.  R-Spondin 1/Dickkopf-1/Beta-Catenin Machinery Is Involved in Testicular Embryonic Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0124213.
Testicular vasculogenesis is one of the key processes regulating male gonad morphogenesis. The knowledge of the molecular cues underlining this phenomenon is one of today’s most challenging issues and could represent a major contribution toward a better understanding of the onset of testicular morphogenetic disorders. R-spondin 1 has been clearly established as a candidate for mammalian ovary determination. Conversely, very little information is available on the expression and role of R-spondin 1 during testicular morphogenesis. This study aims to clarify the distribution pattern of R-spondin 1 and other partners of its machinery during the entire period of testicular morphogenesis and to indicate the role of this system in testicular development. Our whole mount immunofluorescence results clearly demonstrate that R-spondin 1 is always detectable in the testicular coelomic partition, where testicular vasculature is organized, while Dickkopf-1 is never detectable in this area. Moreover, organ culture experiments of embryonic male UGRs demonstrated that Dickkopf-1 acted as an inhibitor of testis vasculature formation. Consistent with this observation, real-time PCR analyses demonstrated that DKK1 is able to slightly but significantly decrease the expression level of the endothelial marker Pecam1. The latter experiments allowed us to observe that DKK1 administration also perturbs the expression level of the Pdgf-b chain, which is consistent with some authors’ observations relating this factor with prenatal testicular patterning and angiogenesis. Interestingly, the DKK1 induced inhibition of testicular angiogenesis was rescued by the co-administration of R-spondin 1. In addition, R-spondin 1 alone was sufficient to enhance, in culture, testicular angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4409372  PMID: 25910078
9.  Cytoskeleton Modifications and Autophagy Induction in TCam-2 Seminoma Cells Exposed to Simulated Microgravity 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:904396.
The study of how mechanical forces may influence cell behavior via cytoskeleton remodeling is a relevant challenge of nowadays that may allow us to define the relationship between mechanics and biochemistry and to address the larger problem of biological complexity. An increasing amount of literature data reported that microgravity condition alters cell architecture as a consequence of cytoskeleton structure modifications. Herein, we are reporting the morphological, cytoskeletal, and behavioral modifications due to the exposition of a seminoma cell line (TCam-2) to simulated microgravity. Even if no differences in cell proliferation and apoptosis were observed after 24 hours of exposure to simulated microgravity, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis revealed that the change of gravity vector significantly affects TCam-2 cell surface morphological appearance. Consistent with this observation, we found that microtubule orientation is altered by microgravity. Moreover, the confocal analysis of actin microfilaments revealed an increase in the cell width induced by the low gravitational force. Microtubules and microfilaments have been related to autophagy modulation and, interestingly, we found a significant autophagic induction in TCam-2 cells exposed to simulated microgravity. This observation is of relevant interest because it shows, for the first time, TCam-2 cell autophagy as a biological response induced by a mechanical stimulus instead of a biochemical one.
PMCID: PMC4124846  PMID: 25140323
10.  Pleiotropic Activities of HGF/c-Met System in Testicular Physiology: Paracrine and Endocrine Implications 
In the last decades, a growing body of evidence has been reported concerning the expression and functional role of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) on different aspects of testicular physiology. This review has the aim to summarize what is currently known regarding this topic. From early embryonic development to adult age, HGF and its receptor c-Met appeared to be clearly detectable in the testis. These molecules acquire different distribution patterns and roles depending on the developmental stage or the post-natal age considered. HGF acts as a paracrine modulator of testicular functions promoting the epithelium–mesenchyme cross-talk as described even in other organs. Interestingly, it has been reported that testicular HGF acts even as an autocrine factor and that its receptor might be modulated by endocrine signals that change at puberty: HGF receptor expressed by Sertoli cells, in fact, is up-regulated by FSH administration. HGF is in turn able to modify endocrine state of the organism being able to increase testosterone secretion of both fetal and adult Leydig cells. Moreover, c-Met is expressed in mitotic and meiotic male germ cells as well as in spermatozoa. The distribution pattern of c-Met on sperm cell membrane changes in the caput and cauda epididymal sperms and HGF is able to maintain epididymal sperm motility in vitro suggesting a physiological role of this growth factor in the acquisition of sperm motility. Noteworthy changes in HGF concentration in seminal plasma have been reported in different andrological diseases. All together these data indicate that HGF has a role in the control of spermatogenesis and sperm quality either directly, acting on male germ cells, or indirectly acting on tubular and interstitial somatic cells of the testis.
PMCID: PMC3982073  PMID: 24772104
HGF; c-Met receptor; testis; male gonad development; testicular cell differentiation; sex hormones
11.  Microenvironment Promotes Tumor Cell Reprogramming in Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83770.
The microenvironment drives mammary gland development and function, and may influence significantly both malignant behavior and cell growth of mammary cancer cells. By restoring context, and forcing cells to properly interpret native signals from the microenvironment, the cancer cell aberrant behavior can be quelled, and organization re-established. In order to restore functional and morphological differentiation, human mammary MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cancer cells were allowed to grow in a culture medium filled with a 10% of the albumen (EW, Egg White) from unfertilized chicken egg. That unique microenvironment behaves akin a 3D culture and induces MCF-7 cells to produce acini and branching duct-like structures, distinctive of mammary gland differentiation. EW-treated MDA-MB-231 cells developed buds of acini and duct-like structures. Both MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells produced β-casein, a key milk component. Furthermore, E-cadherin expression was reactivated in MDA-MB-231 cells, as a consequence of the increased cdh1 expression; meanwhile β-catenin – a key cytoskeleton component – was displaced behind the inner cell membrane. Such modification hinders the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in MDA-MB-231 cells. This differentiating pathway is supported by the contemporary down-regulation of canonical pluripotency markers (Klf4, Nanog). Given that egg-conditioned medium behaves as a 3D-medium, it is likely that cancer phenotype reversion could be ascribed to the changed interactions between cells and their microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3875474  PMID: 24386275
12.  “I have got something positive out of this situation”: psychological benefits of caregiving in relatives of young people with muscular dystrophy 
Journal of Neurology  2013;261(1):188-195.
This paper focuses on the psychological benefits of caregiving in key relatives of patients with muscular dystrophies (MD), a group of rare diseases characterized by progressive weakness and restriction of the patient’s functional abilities. We describe whether relatives perceived caregiving to be a positive experience and test whether relatives’ perceptions vary in relation to their view of the patient as a valued person, the degree of involvement in care, and the level of support provided by social network and professionals. The study sample included 502 key relatives of patients aged 4–25 years, suffering from Duchenne, Becker, or limb-girdle MD, in treatment for at least 6 months to one of the eight participating centers, living with at least one relative aged 18–80 years. Of key relatives, 88 % stated that they had gotten something positive out of the situation, 96 % considered their patients to be sensitive, and 94 % viewed their patients as talented. Positive aspects of caregiving were more recognized by key relatives who were more convinced that the patient was sensitive and who perceived that they received higher level of professional help and psychological social support. These results suggest that most key relatives consider that their caregiving experience has had a positive impact on their lives, despite the practical difficulties of caring for patients with MD. Professionals should help relatives to identify the benefits of caregiving without denying its difficulties. Clinicians themselves should develop positive attitudes towards family involvement in the care of patients with long-term diseases.
PMCID: PMC3895206  PMID: 24202786
Muscular dystrophy; Psychological benefits; Caregiving; Social network; Professional support
14.  TCam-2 Seminoma Cells Exposed to Egg-Derived Microenvironment Modify Their Shape, Adhesive Pattern and Migratory Behaviour: A Molecular and Morphometric Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76192.
Seminoma is one of the most common Testicular Germ Cell Tumours that originates during embryonic development due to an alteration of the local niche that in turn results in a delayed or blocked differentiation of Primordial Germ Cells. The block of differentiation is actually a common way to develop cancer disease as postulated by the "embryonic rest theory of cancer". In agreement with this theory different studies have demonstrated that embryonic cues display the capacity of reprogramming aggressive cancer cells towards a less aggressive phenotype. Herein we investigate the ability of a culture medium added with 10% egg albumen (EW, Egg White) to modulate seminoma cell phenotype and behaviour, by ensuring a proper set of morphogenetic signals. We chose to use the TCam-2 seminoma cell line that has been established as the only available cell line, obtained from a primary testicular seminoma. EW is able to: 1) modify TCam-2 cell spreading rate and cell-substrate adhesion without affecting proliferation and survival indexes; 2) modulate TCam-2 actin distribution pattern increasing cortical localization of actin filaments; 3) increase TCam-2 cell-cell junction capability; 4) decrease both chemo-sensitive and collective TCam-2 migratory behaviour. According to these observations morphometric fractal analysis revealed the ability of EW to increase Circularity and Solidity parameters and, consequently, to decrease Fractal dimension. Prompted by these observations we hypothesize that EW treatment could rescue, at least in part, the neoplastic-metastatic behaviour of seminoma cells.
PMCID: PMC3788130  PMID: 24098438
15.  Large scale genotype–phenotype analyses indicate that novel prognostic tools are required for families with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 
Brain  2013;136(11):3408-3417.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy has been genetically linked to reduced numbers (≤8) of D4Z4 repeats at 4q35 combined with 4A(159/161/168) DUX4 polyadenylation signal haplotype. However, we have recently reported that 1.3% of healthy individuals carry this molecular signature and 19% of subjects affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy do not carry alleles with eight or fewer D4Z4 repeats. Therefore, prognosis for subjects carrying or at risk of carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles has become more complicated. To test for additional prognostic factors, we measured the degree of motor impairment in a large group of patients affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and their relatives who are carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles. The clinical expression of motor impairment was assessed in 530 subjects, 163 probands and 367 relatives, from 176 unrelated families according to a standardized clinical score. The associations between clinical severity and size of D4Z4 allele, degree of kinship, gender, age and 4q haplotype were evaluated. Overall, 32.2% of relatives did not display any muscle functional impairment. This phenotype was influenced by the degree of relation with proband, because 47.1% of second- through fifth-degree relatives were unaffected, whereas only 27.5% of first-degree family members did not show motor impairment. The estimated risk of developing motor impairment by age 50 for relatives carrying a D4Z4 reduced allele with 1–3 repeats or 4–8 repeats was 88.7% and 55%, respectively. Male relatives had a mean score significantly higher than females (5.4 versus 4.0, P = 0.003). No 4q haplotype was exclusively associated with the presence of disease. In 13% of families in which D4Z4 alleles with 4–8 repeats segregate, the diagnosis of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy was reported only in one generation. In conclusion, this large-scale analysis provides further information that should be taken into account when counselling families in which a reduced allele with 4–8 D4Z4 repeats segregates. In addition, the reduced expression of disease observed in distant relatives suggests that a family’s genetic background plays a role in the occurrence of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. These results indicate that the identification of new susceptibility factors for this disease will require an accurate classification of families.
PMCID: PMC3808686  PMID: 24030947
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; D4Z4 reduced allele; genotype–phenotype correlations; penetrance; disease expression
16.  Next-Generation Sequencing Identifies Transportin 3 as the Causative Gene for LGMD1F 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63536.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD) are genetically and clinically heterogeneous conditions. We investigated a large family with autosomal dominant transmission pattern, previously classified as LGMD1F and mapped to chromosome 7q32. Affected members are characterized by muscle weakness affecting earlier the pelvic girdle and the ileopsoas muscles. We sequenced the whole exome of four family members and identified a shared heterozygous frame-shift variant in the Transportin 3 (TNPO3) gene, encoding a member of the importin-β super-family. The TNPO3 gene is mapped within the LGMD1F critical interval and its 923-amino acid human gene product is also expressed in skeletal muscle. In addition, we identified an isolated case of LGMD with a new missense mutation in the same gene. We localized the mutant TNPO3 around the nucleus, but not inside. The involvement of gene related to the nuclear transport suggests a novel disease mechanism leading to muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3646821  PMID: 23667635
17.  Effects of aerobic training on exercise-related oxidative stress in mitochondrial myopathies 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(3-3):S172-S177.
In mitochondrial myopathies with respiratory chain deficiency impairment of energy cell production may lead to in excess reactive oxygen species generation with consequent oxidative stress and cell damage. Aerobic training has been showed to increase muscle performance in patients with mitochondrial myopathies. Aim of this study has been to evaluate, in 7 patients (6F e 1 M, mean age 44.9 ± 12.1 years) affected by mitochondrial disease, concomitantly to lactate exercise curve, the occurrence of oxidative stress, as indicated by circulating levels of lipoperoxides, in rest condition and as effect of exercise, and also, to verify if an aerobic training program is able to modify, in these patients, ox-redox balance efficiency. At rest and before training blood level of lipoperoxides was 382.4 ± 37.8 AU, compared to controls (318.7 ± 63.8; P < 0.05), this corresponding to a moderate oxidative stress degree according to the adopted scale. During incremental exercise blood level of lipoperoxides did not increase, but maintained significantly higher compared to controls. After an aerobic training of 10 weeks the blood level of lipoperoxides decreased by 13.7% at rest (P < 0.01) and 10.4%, 8.6% and 8.5% respectively at the corresponding times during the exercise test (P = 0.06). These data indicate that, in mitochondrial patients, oxidative stress occurs and that an aerobic training is useful in partially reverting this condition.
PMCID: PMC3526792  PMID: 23182634
Mitochondrial diseases; Muscle exercise; Aerobic training; Oxidative stress
18.  Genetic characterization in symptomatic female DMD carriers: lack of relationship between X-inactivation, transcriptional DMD allele balancing and phenotype 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:73.
Although Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, X-linked recessive myopathies, predominantly affect males, a clinically significant proportion of females manifesting symptoms have also been reported. They represent an heterogeneous group characterized by variable degrees of muscle weakness and/or cardiac involvement. Though preferential inactivation of the normal X chromosome has long been considered the principal mechanism behind disease manifestation in these females, supporting evidence is controversial.
Eighteen females showing a mosaic pattern of dystrophin expression on muscle biopsy were recruited and classified as symptomatic (7) or asymptomatic (11), based on the presence or absence of muscle weakness. The causative DMD gene mutations were identified in all cases, and the X-inactivation pattern was assessed in muscle DNA. Transcriptional analysis in muscles was performed in all females, and relative quantification of wild-type and mutated transcripts was also performed in 9 carriers. Dystrophin protein was quantified by immunoblotting in 2 females.
The study highlighted a lack of relationship between dystrophic phenotype and X-inactivation pattern in females; skewed X-inactivation was found in 2 out of 6 symptomatic carriers and in 5 out of 11 asymptomatic carriers. All females were characterized by biallelic transcription, but no association was found between X-inactivation pattern and allele transcriptional balancing. Either a prevalence of wild-type transcript or equal proportions of wild-type and mutated RNAs was observed in both symptomatic and asymptomatic females. Moreover, very similar levels of total and wild-type transcripts were identified in the two groups of carriers.
This is the first study deeply exploring the DMD transcriptional behaviour in a cohort of female carriers. Notably, no relationship between X-inactivation pattern and transcriptional behaviour of DMD gene was observed, suggesting that the two mechanisms are regulated independently. Moreover, neither the total DMD transcript level, nor the relative proportion of the wild-type transcript do correlate with the symptomatic phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3459813  PMID: 22894145
Dystrophinopathy; Female carriers; X-inactivation; Transcriptional balancing
19.  The empowerment of translational research: lessons from laminopathies 
The need for a collaborative approach to complex inherited diseases collectively referred to as laminopathies, encouraged Italian researchers, geneticists, physicians and patients to join in the Italian Network for Laminopathies, in 2009. Here, we highlight the advantages and added value of such a multidisciplinary effort to understand pathogenesis, clinical aspects and try to find a cure for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Mandibuloacral dysplasia, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria and forms of lamin-linked cardiomyopathy, neuropathy and lipodystrophy.
PMCID: PMC3458975  PMID: 22691392
Laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy; Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Conduction Defects; Mandibuloacral Dysplasia; Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Type 2; Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome; Rare Diseases; Networking activity; interdisciplinary approach to diseases
20.  Rippling muscle disease and facioscapulohumeral dystrophy-like phenotype in a patient carrying a heterozygous CAV3 T78M mutation and a D4Z4 partial deletion: Further evidence for “double trouble” overlapping syndromes 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(6):534-540.
We report the first case of a heterozygous T78M mutation in the caveolin-3 gene (CAV3) associated with rippling muscle disease and proximal myopathy. The patient displayed also bilateral winged scapula with limited abduction of upper arms and marked asymmetric atrophy of leg muscles shown by magnetic resonance imaging. Immunohistochemistry on the patient’s muscle biopsy demonstrated a reduction of caveolin-3 staining, compatible with the diagnosis of caveolinopathy. Interestingly, consistent with the possible diagnosis of FSHD, the patient carried a 35 kb D4Z4 allele on chromosome 4q35. We discuss the hypothesis that the two genetic mutations may exert a synergistic effect in determining the phenotype observed in this patient.
PMCID: PMC3359497  PMID: 22245016
Rippling muscle disease; Caveolinopathy; Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy; Limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 1C
21.  Bovine Lactoferrin Counteracts Toll-Like Receptor Mediated Activation Signals in Antigen Presenting Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22504.
Lactoferrin (LF), a key element in mammalian immune system, plays pivotal roles in host defence against infection and excessive inflammation. Its protective effects range from direct antimicrobial activities against a large panel of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, to antinflammatory and anticancer activities. In this study, we show that monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MD-DCs) generated in the presence of bovine LF (bLF) fail to undergo activation by up-modulating CD83, co-stimulatory and major histocompatibility complex molecules, and cytokine/chemokine secretion. Moreover, these cells are weak activators of T cell proliferation and retain antigen uptake activity. Consistent with an impaired maturation, bLF-MD-DC primed T lymphocytes exhibit a functional unresponsiveness characterized by reduced expression of CD154 and impaired expression of IFN-γ and IL-2. The observed imunosuppressive effects correlate with an increased expression of molecules with negative regulatory functions (i.e. immunoglobulin-like transcript 3 and programmed death ligand 1), indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, and suppressor of cytokine signaling-3. Interestingly, bLF-MD-DCs produce IL-6 and exhibit constitutive signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 activation. Conversely, bLF exposure of already differentiated MD-DCs completely fails to induce IL-6, and partially inhibits Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist-induced activation. Cell-specific differences in bLF internalization likely account for the distinct response elicited by bLF in monocytes versus immature DCs, providing a mechanistic base for its multiple effects. These results indicate that bLF exerts a potent anti-inflammatory activity by skewing monocyte differentiation into DCs with impaired capacity to undergo activation and to promote Th1 responses. Overall, these bLF-mediated effects may represent a strategy to block excessive DC activation upon TLR-induced inflammation, adding further evidence for a critical role of bLF in directing host immune function.
PMCID: PMC3143167  PMID: 21799877

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