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1.  The genetic basis of undiagnosed muscular dystrophies and myopathies 
Neurology  2016;87(1):71-76.
To apply next-generation sequencing (NGS) for the investigation of the genetic basis of undiagnosed muscular dystrophies and myopathies in a very large cohort of patients.
We applied an NGS-based platform named MotorPlex to our diagnostic workflow to test muscle disease genes with a high sensitivity and specificity for small DNA variants. We analyzed 504 undiagnosed patients mostly referred as being affected by limb-girdle muscular dystrophy or congenital myopathy.
MotorPlex provided a complete molecular diagnosis in 218 cases (43.3%). A further 160 patients (31.7%) showed as yet unproven candidate variants. Pathogenic variants were found in 47 of 93 genes, and in more than 30% of cases, the phenotype was nonconventional, broadening the spectrum of disease presentation in at least 10 genes.
Our large DNA study of patients with undiagnosed myopathy is an example of the ongoing revolution in molecular diagnostics, highlighting the advantages in using NGS as a first-tier approach for heterogeneous genetic conditions.
PMCID: PMC4932234  PMID: 27281536
2.  Syndromic parkinsonism and dementia associated with OPA 1 missense mutations 
Annals of Neurology  2015;78(1):21-38.
Mounting evidence links neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson disease and Alzheimer disease with mitochondrial dysfunction, and recent emphasis has focused on mitochondrial dynamics and quality control. Mitochondrial dynamics and mtDNA maintenance is another link recently emerged, implicating mutations in the mitochondrial fusion genes OPA1 and MFN2 in the pathogenesis of multisystem syndromes characterized by neurodegeneration and accumulation of mtDNA multiple deletions in postmitotic tissues. Here, we report 2 Italian families affected by dominant chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia (CPEO) complicated by parkinsonism and dementia.
Patients were extensively studied by optical coherence tomography (OCT) to assess retinal nerve fibers, and underwent muscle and brain magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and muscle biopsy and fibroblasts were analyzed. Candidate genes were sequenced, and mtDNA was analyzed for rearrangements.
Affected individuals displayed a slowly progressive syndrome characterized by CPEO, mitochondrial myopathy, sensorineural deafness, peripheral neuropathy, parkinsonism, and/or cognitive impairment, in most cases without visual complains, but with subclinical loss of retinal nerve fibers at OCT. Muscle biopsies showed cytochrome c oxidase‐negative fibers and mtDNA multiple deletions, and MRS displayed defective oxidative metabolism in muscle and brain. We found 2 heterozygous OPA1 missense mutations affecting highly conserved amino acid positions (p.G488R, p.A495V) in the guanosine triphosphatase domain, each segregating with affected individuals. Fibroblast studies showed a reduced amount of OPA1 protein with normal mRNA expression, fragmented mitochondria, impaired bioenergetics, increased autophagy and mitophagy.
The association of CPEO and parkinsonism/dementia with subclinical optic neuropathy widens the phenotypic spectrum of OPA1 mutations, highlighting the association of defective mitochondrial dynamics, mtDNA multiple deletions, and altered mitophagy with parkinsonism. Ann Neurol 2015;78:21–38
PMCID: PMC5008165  PMID: 25820230
3.  Impaired Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Myogenesis in Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
JAMA neurology  2015;72(6):666-675.
The important depletion of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the general depression of mitochondrial respiratory chain complex levels (including complex II) have been confirmed, implying an increasing paucity of mitochondria in the muscle from patients with types I, II, and III spinal muscular atrophy (SMA-I, -II, and -III, respectively).
To investigate mitochondrial dysfunction in a large series of muscle biopsy samples from patients with SMA.
We studied quadriceps muscle samples from 24 patients with genetically documented SMA and paraspinal muscle samples from 3 patients with SMA-II undergoing surgery for scoliosis correction. Postmortem muscle samples were obtained from 1 additional patient. Age-matched controls consisted of muscle biopsy specimens from healthy children aged 1 to 3 years who had undergone analysis for suspected myopathy. Analyses were performed at the Neuromuscular Unit, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Foundation Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico-Milano, from April 2011 through January 2015.
We used histochemical, biochemical, and molecular techniques to examine the muscle samples.
Respiratory chain activity and mitochondrial content.
Results of histochemical analysis revealed that cytochrome-c oxidase (COX) deficiency was more evident in muscle samples from patients with SMA-I and SMA-II. Residual activities for complexes I, II, and IV in muscles from patients with SMA-I were 41%, 27%, and 30%, respectively, compared with control samples (P < .005). Muscle mtDNA content and cytrate synthase activity were also reduced in all 3 SMA types (P < .05). We linked these alterations to downregulation of peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor coactivator 1α, the transcriptional activators nuclear respiratory factor 1 and nuclear respiratory factor 2, mitochondrial transcription factor A, and their downstream targets, implying depression of the entire mitochondrial biogenesis. Results of Western blot analysis confirmed the reduced levels of the respiratory chain subunits that included mitochondrially encoded COX1 (47.5%; P = .004), COX2 (32.4%; P < .001), COX4 (26.6%; P < .001), and succinate dehydrogenase complex subunit A (65.8%; P = .03) as well as the structural outer membrane mitochondrial porin (33.1%; P < .001). Conversely, the levels of expression of 3 myogenic regulatory factors—muscle-specificmyogenic factor 5, myoblast determination 1, and myogenin—were higher in muscles from patients with SMA compared with muscles from age-matched controls (P < .05).
Our results strongly support the conclusion that an altered regulation of myogenesis and a downregulated mitochondrial biogenesis contribute to pathologic change in the muscle of patients with SMA. Therapeutic strategies should aim at counteracting these changes.
PMCID: PMC4944827  PMID: 25844556
4.  Novel findings associated with MTM1 suggest a higher number of female symptomatic carriers 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2016;26(4-5):292-299.
•504 myopathic patients have been screened for MTM1 variants by NGS and CGH array approaches.•Seven novel XLMTM patients and the fifth case of a large Xq28 deletion have been identified.•The identification of two sporadic manifesting female carriers suggests that their number may be underestimated.•Large NGS panels, including the MTM1 gene, are useful tools to identify sporadic female XLMTM patients.•The identification of MTM1 variants, also as incidental findings, complicates genetic counseling.
Mutations in the MTM1 gene cause X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM), characterized by neonatal hypotonia and respiratory failure, and are responsible for a premature mortality in affected males. Female carriers are usually asymptomatic but they may present with muscular weakness because of a hypothesized skewed pattern of X-chromosome inactivation.
By combining next generation sequencing (NGS) and CGH array approaches, we have investigated the role of MTM1 variants in a large cohort of undiagnosed patients with a wide spectrum of myopathies. Seven novel XLMTM patients have been identified, including two girls with an unremarkable family history for myotubular myopathy.
Moreover, we have detected and finely mapped a large deletion causing a myotubular myopathy with abnormal genital development.
Our data confirm that the severe neonatal onset of the disease in male infants is sufficient to address the direct molecular testing toward the MTM1 gene and, above all, suggest that the number of undiagnosed symptomatic female carriers is probably underestimated.
PMCID: PMC4862961  PMID: 27017278
X-linked myotubular myopathy; MTM1 gene; Abnormal genital development; Next-generation sequencing; CGH array
7.  Next generation sequencing on patients with LGMD and nonspecific myopathies: Findings associated with ANO5 mutations 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2015;25(7):533-541.
•We have carried out the largest screening of the ANO5 gene.•We identified 33 patients (4%) with pathogenic changes in both alleles and 23 heterozygotes (3%).•The identification of a ANO5 carrier is not to be considered an uncommon finding.•The anoctaminopathies have an extremely high genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity.•NGS-based strategies are perfect to dissect the clinical variability in NMDs.
We studied 786 undiagnosed patients with LGMD or nonspecific myopathic features to investigate the role of ANO5 mutations in limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMDs) and in nonspecific myopathies using the next generation sequencing (NGS) approach. In 160 LGMD patients, we first sequenced hotspot exons 5 and 20 and then sequenced the remaining part of the coding region. Another 626 patients, recruited using broader inclusion criteria, were directly analyzed by targeted NGS. By combining NGS and Sanger sequencing, we identified 33/786 (4%) patients carrying putative pathogenic changes in both alleles and 23 ANO5 heterozygotes (3%). The phenotypic spectrum is broader than expected, from hyperCKemia to myopathies, with lack of genotype/phenotype correlations. In particular, this is currently the largest screening of the ANO5 gene. The large number of heterozygotes for damaging mutations suggests that anoctaminopathies should be frequent and often nonpenetrant. We propose the multiple genetic testing by targeted NGS as a first step to analyze patients with nonspecific myopathic presentations. This represents a straightforward approach to overcome the difficulties of clinical heterogeneity of ANO5 patients, and to test, at the same time, many other genes involved in neuromuscular disorders.
PMCID: PMC4502439  PMID: 25891276
Next generation sequencing; Muscular dystrophy; LGMD2L; Anoctamin; NGS screening; Targeted resequencing; Limb girdle muscular dystrophy
8.  Clinical, Molecular, and Functional Characterization of CLCN1 Mutations in Three Families with Recessive Myotonia Congenita 
Neuromolecular Medicine  2015;17(3):285-296.
Myotonia congenita (MC) is an inherited muscle disease characterized by impaired muscle relaxation after contraction, resulting in muscle stiffness. Both recessive (Becker’s disease) or dominant (Thomsen’s disease) MC are caused by mutations in the CLCN1 gene encoding the voltage-dependent chloride ClC-1 channel, which is quite exclusively expressed in skeletal muscle. More than 200 CLCN1 mutations have been associated with MC. We provide herein a detailed clinical, molecular, and functional evaluation of four patients with recessive MC belonging to three different families. Four CLCN1 variants were identified, three of which have never been characterized. The c.244A>G (p.T82A) and c.1357C>T (p.R453W) variants were each associated in compound heterozygosity with c.568GG>TC (p.G190S), for which pathogenicity is already known. The new c.809G>T (p.G270V) variant was found in the homozygous state. Patch-clamp studies of ClC-1 mutants expressed in tsA201 cells confirmed the pathogenicity of p.G270V, which greatly shifts the voltage dependence of channel activation toward positive potentials. Conversely, the mechanisms by which p.T82A and p.R453W cause the disease remained elusive, as the mutated channels behave similarly to WT. The results also suggest that p.G190S does not exert dominant-negative effects on other mutated ClC-1 subunits. Moreover, we performed a RT-PCR quantification of selected ion channels transcripts in muscle biopsies of two patients. The results suggest gene expression alteration of sodium and potassium channel subunits in myotonic muscles; if confirmed, such analysis may pave the way toward a better understanding of disease phenotype and a possible identification of new therapeutic options.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12017-015-8356-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4534513  PMID: 26007199
Myotonia congenita; Molecular analysis; CLCN1 gene; Functional characterization; TSA cells; RT-PCR analysis
9.  Defective autophagy in spastizin mutated patients with hereditary spastic paraparesis type 15 
Brain  2013;136(10):3119-3139.
Hereditary spastic paraparesis type 15 is a recessive complicated form of the disease clinically characterized by slowly progressive spastic paraparesis and mental deterioration with onset between the first and second decade of life. Thinning of corpus callosum is the neuroradiological distinctive sign frequently associated with white matter abnormalities. The causative gene, ZFYVE26, encodes a large protein of 2539 amino acid residues, termed spastizin, containing three recognizable domains: a zinc finger, a leucine zipper and a FYVE domain. Spastizin protein has a diffuse cytoplasmic distribution and co-localizes partially with early endosomes, the endoplasmic reticulum, microtubules and vesicles involved in protein trafficking. In addition, spastizin localizes to the mid-body during the final step of mitosis and contributes to successful cytokinesis. Spastizin interacts with Beclin 1, a protein required for cytokinesis and autophagy, which is the major lysosome-mediated degradation process in the cell. In view of the Beclin 1–spastizin interaction, we investigated the possible role of spastizin in autophagy. We carried out this analysis by using lymphoblast and fibroblast cells derived from four different spastizin mutated patients (p.I508N, p.L243P, p.R1209fsX, p.S1312X) and from control subjects. Of note, the truncating p.R1209fsX and p.S1312X mutations lead to loss of spastizin protein. The results obtained indicate that spastizin interacts with the autophagy related Beclin 1–UVRAG–Rubicon multiprotein complex and is required for autophagosome maturation. In cells lacking spastizin or with mutated forms of the protein, spastizin interaction with Beclin 1 is lost although the formation of the Beclin 1–UVRAG–Rubicon complex can still be observed. However, in these cells we demonstrate an impairment of autophagosome maturation and an accumulation of immature autophagosomes. Autophagy defects with autophagosome accumulation can be observed also in neuronal cells upon spastizin silencing. These results indicate that autophagy is a central process in the pathogenesis of complicated forms of hereditary spastic paraparesis with thin corpus callosum.
PMCID: PMC3784282  PMID: 24030950
spastizin; autophagy; Beclin 1; autophagosome maturation; SPG15
10.  Genotype-phenotype correlation in Pompe disease, a step forward 
Pompe’s disease is a progressive myopathy caused by mutations in the lysosomal enzyme acid alphaglucosidase gene (GAA). A wide clinical variability occurs also in patients sharing the same GAA mutations, even within the same family.
For a large series of GSDII patients we collected some clinical data as age of onset of the disease, presence or absence of muscular pain, Walton score, 6-Minute Walking Test, Vital Capacity, and Creatine Kinase. DNA was extracted and tested for GAA mutations and some genetic polymorphisms able to influence muscle properties (ACE, ACTN3, AGT and PPARα genes).
We compared the polymorphisms analyzed in groups of patients with Pompe disease clustered for their homogeneous genotype.
We have been able to identify four subgroups of patients completely homogeneous for their genotype, and two groups homogeneous as far as the second mutation is defined “very severe” or “potentially less severe”. When disease free life was studied we observed a high significant difference between groups. The DD genotype in the ACE gene and the XX genotype in the ACTN3 gene were significantly associated to an earlier age of onset of the disease. The ACE DD genotype was also associated to the presence of muscle pain.
We demonstrate that ACE and ACTN3 polymorphisms are genetic factors able to modulate the clinical phenotype of patients affected with Pompe disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0102-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249737  PMID: 25103075
Glycogen storage disease type II; Genetic polymorphisms; Modifier genes; GAA; ACE; ACTN3
11.  Distinct disease phenotypes linked to different combinations of GAA mutations in a large late-onset GSDII sibship 
Glycogenosis type II (GSDII or Pompe disease) is an autosomal recessive disease, often characterized by a progressive accumulation of glycogen within lysosomes caused by a deficiency of α-1,4-glucosidase (GAA; acid maltase), a key enzyme of the glycogen degradation pathway. To date, more than 326 different mutations in the GAA gene have been identified in patients with GSDII but the course of the disease is difficult to be predicted on the basis of molecular genetic changes. Studies on large informative families are advisable to better define how genetics and non genetics factors like exercise and diet may influence the clinical phenotype.
Methods and results
In this study, we report on clinical, instrumental, and pathological features as well as on molecular analysis of a family with 10 out of 13 siblings affected by late-onset Pompe disease. Three mutations segregated in the family, two of which are novel mutations. Siblings showing a more severe phenotype were compound heterozygous for c.118C > T [p.R40X] and c.2647-7G > A [p.N882fs] on GAA, whereas, two patients showing a mild phenotype were compound heterozygous c.2647-7G > A [p.N882fs] and c.2276G > C [p.G759A] mutations. Quantitative expression analysis showed, in the patients carrying p.R40X/ p.N882fs, a significant (p 0.01) correlation between the levels of expression of the mutated allele and the age at onset of the disease.
As far as we know, this is the largest informative family with late-onset Pompe disease described in the literature showing a peculiar complex set of mutations of GAA gene that may partially elucidate the clinical heterogeneity of this family.
PMCID: PMC3851825  PMID: 24107549
Pompe disease; GAA gene; Mutation analysis; Genotype-phenotype correlations
13.  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
16.  Enterococcal meningitis caused by Enterococcus casseliflavus. First case report 
Enterococcal meningitis is an uncommon disease usually caused by Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium and is associated with a high mortality rate. Enterococcus casseliflavus has been implicated in a wide variety of infections in humans, but never in meningitis.
Case presentation
A 77-year-old Italian female presented for evaluation of fever, stupor, diarrhea and vomiting of 3 days duration. There was no history of head injury nor of previous surgical procedures. She had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years, for which she was being treated with steroids and methotrexate. On admission, she was febrile, alert but not oriented to time and place. Her neck was stiff, and she had a positive Kernig's sign. The patient's cerebrospinal fluid was opalescent with a glucose concentration of 14 mg/dl, a protein level of 472 mg/dl, and a white cell count of 200/μL with 95% polymorphonuclear leukocytes and 5% lymphocytes. Gram staining of CSF revealed no organisms, culture yielded E. casseliflavus. The patient was successfully treated with meropenem and ampicillin-sulbactam.
E. casseliflavus can be inserted among the etiologic agents of meningitis. Awareness of infection of central nervous system with Enterococcus species that possess an intrinsic vancomycin resistance should be increased.
PMCID: PMC547911  PMID: 15649336

Results 1-17 (17)