myotonic dystrophy; autonomic nervous system; heart rate; dystrophin; congenital disorders of glycosylation
The world of metabolic myopathies has been dramatically modified by the advent of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT), the first causative treatment for glycogenosis type II (GSDII) or Pompe disease, which has given new impetus to research into that disease and also other pathologies. This article reviews new advances in the treatment of GSDII, the consensus about ERT, and its limitations. In addition, the most recent knowledge regarding the pathophysiology, phenotype, and genotype of the disease is discussed. Pharmacological, immunotherapy, nutritional, and physical/rehabilitative treatments for late-onset Pompe disease and other metabolic myopathies are covered, including treatments for defects in glycogen metabolism, such as glycogenosis type V (McArdle disease), and glycogenosis type III (debrancher enzyme deficiency), and defects in lipid metabolism, such as carnitine palmitoyltransferase II deficiency and electron transferring flavoprotein dehydrogenase deficiency, or riboflavin-responsive multiple acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency.
Glycogenosis type II; McArdle disease; RR-MADD; glycogenosis type III; CPT2 deficiency
Several examples have always illustrated how access to large numbers of biospecimens and associated data plays a pivotal role in the identification of disease genes and the development of pharmaceuticals. Hence, allowing researchers to access to significant numbers of quality samples and data, genetic biobanks are a powerful tool in basic, translational and clinical research into rare diseases. Recently demand for well-annotated and properly-preserved specimens is growing at a high rate, and is expected to grow for years to come. The best effective solution to this issue is to enhance the potentialities of well-managed biobanks by building a network.
Here we report a 5-year experience of the Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks (TNGB), a non-profit association of Italian repositories created in 2008 to form a virtually unique catalogue of biospecimens and associated data, which presently lists more than 750 rare genetic defects. The process of TNGB harmonisation has been mainly achieved through the adoption of a unique, centrally coordinated, IT infrastructure, which has enabled (i) standardisation of all the TNGB procedures and activities; (ii) creation of an updated TNGB online catalogue, based on minimal data set and controlled terminologies; (iii) sample access policy managed via a shared request control panel at web portal. TNGB has been engaged in disseminating information on its services into both scientific/biomedical - national and international - contexts, as well as associations of patients and families. Indeed, during the last 5-years national and international scientists extensively used the TNGB with different purposes resulting in more than 250 scientific publications. In addition, since its inception the TNGB is an associated member of the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure and recently joined the EuroBioBank network. Moreover, the involvement of patients and families, leading to the formalization of various agreements between TNGB and Patients’ Associations, has demonstrated how promoting Biobank services can be instrumental in gaining a critical mass of samples essential for research, as well as, raising awareness, trust and interest of the general public in Biobanks. This article focuses on some fundamental aspects of networking and demonstrates how the translational research benefits from a sustained infrastructure.
Biobanking; Networking; Biological resources centre; IT infrastructure; Biological material; Biospecimens; Cryopreservation; Rare diseases; Patients’ associations
To test the effect of the single nucleotide polymorphism −66 T>G (rs28357094) in the osteopontin gene (SPP1) on functional measures over 12 months in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
This study was conducted on a cohort of ambulatory patients with DMD from a network of Italian neuromuscular centers, evaluated longitudinally with the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and the 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) at study entry and after 12 months. Genotype at rs28357094 was determined after completion of the clinical evaluations. Patients were stratified in 2 groups according to a dominant model (TT homozygotes vs TG heterozygotes and GG homozygotes) and clinical data were retrospectively compared between groups.
Eighty patients were selected (age 4.1–19.3 years; mean 8.3 ± 2.7 SD). There were no differences in age or steroid treatment between the 2 subgroups. Paired t test showed a significant difference in both NSAA (p = 0.013) and 6MWT (p = 0.03) between baseline and follow-up after 12 months in patients with DMD carrying the G allele. The difference was not significant in the T subgroup. The analysis of covariance using age and baseline values as covariate and SPP1 genotype as fixed effect showed that these parameters are significantly correlated with the 12-month values.
These data provide evidence of the role of SPP1 genotype as a disease modifier in DMD and support its relevance in the selection of homogeneous groups of patients for future clinical trials.
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.
Regulated removal of proteins and organelles by autophagy-lysosome system is critical for muscle homeostasis. Excessive activation of autophagy-dependent degradation contributes to muscle atrophy and cachexia. Conversely, inhibition of autophagy causes accumulation of protein aggregates and abnormal organelles, leading to myofiber degeneration and myopathy. Defects in lysosomal function result in severe muscle disorders such as Pompe (GSDII) disease, characterised by an accumulation of autophagosomes. However, whether autophagy is detrimental or not in muscle function of Pompe patients is unclear. We studied infantile and late-onset GSDII patients and correlated impairment of autophagy with muscle wasting. We also monitored autophagy in patients who received recombinant α-glucosidase. Our data show that infantile and late-onset patients have different levels of autophagic flux, accumulation of p62-positive protein aggregates and expression of atrophy-related genes. Although the infantile patients show impaired autophagic function, the late-onset patients display an interesting correlation among autophagy impairment, atrophy and disease progression. Moreover, reactivation of autophagy in vitro contributes to GAA maturation in both healthy and diseased myotubes. Together, our data suggest that autophagy protects myofibers from disease progression and atrophy in late-onset patients.
atrophy; autophagy; glycogen storage disease; Pompe disease; MuRF1
Autoimmune myasthenia gravis (MG) is a neuromuscular disorder caused by autoantibodies directed against the acetylcholine receptor (AChR). Current symptomatic therapy is based on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) drugs. The available long-term current therapy includes steroids and other immunomodulatory agents. MG is associated with the production of a soluble, rare isoform of AChE, also referred as the “read-through” transcript (AChE-R). Monarsen (EN101) is a synthetic antisense compound directed against the AChE gene. Monarsen was administered in 16 patients with MG and 14 patients achieved a clinically significant response. The drug is now in a Phase II study. Further investigations are required to confirm its long-term effects.
myasthenia gravis; antisense oligonucleotides; acetyl cholinesterase; EN101
Fatigue is a frequent complaint in muscular dystrophies but it is yet not well defined or studied. We have examined the issue of muscle fatigue in a series of molecularly defined muscular dystrophies. A greater fatigability is seen in muscular dystrophy patients and can be an acute or chronic status. In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and beta-sarcoglycanopathy besides the alteration of dystrophin and/or sarcoglycan complex, a neuronal nitric oxide synthase depletion is frequently found and might correlate with post-exercise fatigability as well as with cardiac involvement. Therefore, it might be an important modulating factor of the severity of myopathy. In myotonic dystrophy, fatigue is a common complaint: muscle is involved and type 1 atrophy is a frequent feature; brain involvement and depressed mood might likely explain the extent of fatigue and daytime sleepiness commonly observed in these patients. Furthermore, in our observation in a series of 24 cases, muscle and brain can be independently involved in DM1 patients. These observations have profound impact on the type of physical therapy to be prescribed in such patients.
Fatigue; Duchenne dystrophy; Limb girdle dystrophy; Myotonic dystrophy; Nitric oxide synthase
Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is the most common adult-onset muscular dystrophy with an estimated prevalence of 1/8000. There are two genetically distinct types, DM1 and DM2. DM2 is generally milder with more phenotypic variability than the classic DM1. Our previous data on co-segregation of heterozygous recessive CLCN1 mutations in DM2 patients indicated a higher than expected DM2 prevalence. The aim of this study was to determine the DM2 and DM1 frequency in the general population, and to explore whether the DM2 mutation functions as a modifier in other neuromuscular diseases (NMD) to account for unexplained phenotypic variability. We genotyped 5535 Finnish individuals: 4532 normal blood donors, 606 patients with various non-myotonic NMD, 221 tibial muscular dystrophy patients and their 176 healthy relatives for the DM2 and DM1 mutations. We also genotyped an Italian idiopathic non-myotonic proximal myopathy cohort (n=93) for the DM2 mutation. In 5496 samples analyzed for DM2, we found three DM2 mutations and two premutations. In 5511 samples analyzed for DM1, we found two DM1 mutations and two premutations. In the Italian cohort, we identified one patient with a DM2 mutation. We conclude that the DM2 mutation frequency is significantly higher in the general population (1/1830; P-value=0.0326) than previously estimated. The identification of DM2 mutations in NMD patients with clinical phenotypes not previously associated with DM2 is of particular interest and is in accord with the high overall prevalence. On the basis of our results, DM2 appears more frequent than DM1, with most DM2 patients currently undiagnosed with symptoms frequently occurring in the elderly population.
myotonic dystrophy; mutation frequency; prevalence; population
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.
Rippling muscle disease; Caveolinopathy; Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy; Limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 1C
Steroids have been used since two decades and several trials were conducted to establish their efficacy in DMD patients with various regimens. The clinical outcomes showed increased function in the treated boys, and in a single trial with deflazacort, prolongation of ambulation but with different side effects. Steroids clinical efficacy is now established. The main concern is to increase steroid efficacy and decrease side effect and toxicity. A trial comparing daily prednisone, deflazacort and intermittent glucocorticoids (prednisone 10 days on/10 days off) (FOR-DMD) is starting under NIH grant. The primary outcomes will be muscle strength, forced vital capacity and patient/parents satisfaction.
Steroids; Duchenne; DMD; side effect; quality of life
Limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) type 2A is caused by mutations in the CAPN3 gene and complete lack of functional calpain 3 leads to the most severe muscle wasting. Calpain 3 is suggested to be involved in maturation of contractile elements after muscle degeneration. The aim of this study was to investigate how mutations in the four functional domains of calpain 3 affect muscle regeneration.
We studied muscle regeneration in 22 patients with LGMD2A with calpain 3 deficiency, in five patients with LGMD2I, with a secondary reduction in calpain 3, and in five patients with Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) with normal calpain 3 levels. Regeneration was assessed by using the developmental markers neonatal myosin heavy chain (nMHC), vimentin, MyoD and myogenin and counting internally nucleated fibers.
We found that the recent regeneration as determined by the number of nMHC/vimentin-positive fibers was greatly diminished in severely affected LGMD2A patients compared to similarly affected patients with LGMD2I and BMD. Whorled fibers, a sign of aberrant regeneration, was highly elevated in patients with a complete lack of calpain 3 compared to patients with residual calpain 3. Regeneration is not affected by location of the mutation in the CAPN3 gene.
Our findings suggest that calpain 3 is needed for the regenerative process probably during sarcomere remodeling as the complete lack of functional calpain 3 leads to the most severe phenotypes.
Limb girdle muscular dystrophy; Calpain 3; Muscle regeneration; INF; Neonatal myosin heavy chain; Vimentin
We investigated the clinical and molecular pattern of two young men affected by dysferlinopathy, that was first diagnosed as polymyositis. We show that their symptoms and clinical course although progressive were peculiar, as well as their biopsy suggesting a subsequent analysis of dysferlin protein by western blotting. Molecular analysis of dysferlin gene revealed pathogenetic mutations in both cases.
In such cases a screening with Western blot followed by DNA analysis of dysferlin gene is therefore recommended. We present a diagnostic algorythm for patients with suspected myositis but presenting signs of disease progression and poor response to steroids.
Dysferlin; LGMD2B; Western blot
Dysferlin is a 237-kDa transmembrane protein involved in calcium-mediated sarcolemma resealing. Dysferlin gene mutations cause limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) 2B, Miyoshi myopathy (MM) and distal myopathy of the anterior tibialis. Considering that a secondary Dysferlin reduction has also been described in other myopathies, our original goal was to identify cases with a Dysferlin deficiency without dysferlin gene mutations. The dysferlin gene is huge, composed of 55 exons that span 233 140 bp of genomic DNA. We performed a thorough mutation analysis in 65 LGMD/MM patients with ≤20% Dysferlin. The screening was exhaustive, as we sequenced both genomic DNA and cDNA. When required, we used other methods, including real-time PCR, long PCR and array CGH. In all patients, we were able to recognize the primary involvement of the dysferlin gene. We identified 38 novel mutation types. Some of these, such as a dysferlin gene duplication, could have been missed by conventional screening strategies. Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay was evident in six cases, in three of which both alleles were only detectable in the genomic DNA but not in the mRNA. Among a wide spectrum of novel gene defects, we found the first example of a ‘nonstop' mutation causing a dysferlinopathy. This study presents the first direct and conclusive evidence that an amount of Dysferlin ≤20% is pathogenic and always caused by primary dysferlin gene mutations. This demonstrates the high specificity of a marked reduction of Dysferlin on western blot and the value of a comprehensive molecular approach for LGMD2B/MM diagnosis.
dysferlin; limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; Miyoshi myopathy; nonsense-mediated mRNA decay; comparative genomic hybridization
MicroRNAs are highly conserved, noncoding RNAs involved in post-transcriptional gene silencing. They have been shown to participate in a wide range of biological processes, including myogenesis and muscle regeneration. The goal of this study is to test the hypothesis that myo-miRs (myo = muscle + miR = miRNA) expression is altered in muscle from patients affected by myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), the most frequently inherited neuromuscular disease in adults. In order to gain better insights about the role of miRNAs in the DM1 pathogenesis, we have also analyzed the muscular expression of miR-103 and miR-107, which have been identified in silico as attractive candidates for binding to the DMPK mRNA.
To this aim, we have profiled the expression of miR-133 (miR-133a, miR-133b), miR-1, miR-181 (miR-181a, miR-181b, miR-181c) and miR-206, that are specifically induced during myogenesis in cardiac and skeletal muscle tissues. miR-103 and miR-107, highly expressed in brain, heart and muscle have also been included in this study. QRT-PCR experiments have been performed on RNA from vastus lateralis biopsies of DM1 patients (n = 7) and control subjects (n = 4). Results of miRNAs expression have been confirmed by Northern blot, whereas in situ hybridization technique have been performed to localize misexpressed miRNAs on muscle sections from DM1 and control individuals.
Only miR-206 showed an over-expression in 5 of 7 DM1 patients (threshold = 2, fold change between 1.20 and 13.22, average = 5.37) compared to the control group. This result has been further confirmed by Northern blot analysis (3.37-fold overexpression, R2 = 0.89). In situ hybridization localized miR-206 to nuclear site both in normal and DM1 tissues. Cellular distribution in DM1 tissues includes also the nuclear regions of centralized nuclei, with a strong signal corresponding to nuclear clumps.
This work provides, for the first time, evidences about miRNAs misexpression in DM1 muscle tissues, adding a new element in the pathogenesis of this complex genetic disease.
A novel single‐nucleotide deletion in exon 100 of the RYR1 gene, corresponding to deletion of nucleotide 14 510 in the human RyR1 mRNA (c14510delA), was identified in a man with malignant hyperthermia and in his two daughters who were normal for malignant hyperthermia. This deletion results in a RyR1 protein lacking the last 202 amino acid residues. All three subjects heterozygotic for the mutated allele presented with a prevalence of type 1 fibres with central cores, although none experienced clinical signs of myopathy. Expression of the truncated protein resulted in non‐functional RYR1 calcium release channels. Expression of wild‐type and RyR1R4836fsX4838 proteins resulted in heterozygotic release channels with overall functional properties similar to those of wild‐type RyR1 channels. Nevertheless, small differences in sensitivity to calcium and caffeine were observed in heterotetrameric channels, which also presented an altered assembly/stability in sucrose‐gradient centrifugation analysis. Altogether, these data suggest that altered RYR1 tetramer assembly/stability coupled with subtle chronic changes in Ca2+ homoeostasis over the long term may contribute to the development of core lesions and incomplete malignant hyperthermia susceptibility penetrance in individuals carrying this novel RYR1 mutation.
Glycogen storage disease type II (GSDII) is an autosomal recessive lysosomal
disorder caused by mutations in the gene encoding alpha-glucosidase (GAA). The
disease can be clinically classified into three types: a severe infantile form,
a juvenile and an adultonset form. Cases with juvenile or adult onset GSDII
mimic limb-girdle muscular dystrophy or polymyositis and are often characterized
by respiratory involvement. GSDII patients are diagnosed by biochemical assay
and by molecular characterization of the GAA gene. Ascertaining a natural
history of patients with heterogeneous late-onset GSDII is useful for evaluating
their progressive functional disability. A significant decline is observed over
the years in skeletal and respiratory muscle function. Enzyme replacement
therapy (ERT) has provided encouraging results in the infantile form. It is not
yet known if ERT is effective in late-onset GSDII. We examined a series of 11
patients before and after ERT evaluating muscle strength by MRC, timed and
graded functional tests, 6-minute walk test (6MWT), respiratory function by
spirometric parameters and quality of life. We observed a partial improvement
during a prolonged follow-up from 3 to 18 months. The use of different clinical
parameters in the proposed protocol seems crucial to determine the efficacy of
ERT, since not all late-onset patients respond similarly to ERT.
glycogen storage disease type II; trial; protocol
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) 2A (calpainopathy) is the most frequent form of LGMD in many European countries. The increasing demand for a molecular diagnosis makes the identification of strategies to improve gene mutation detection crucial. We conducted both a quantitative analysis of calpain-3 protein in 519 muscles from patients with unclassified LGMD, unclassified myopathy and hyperCKemia, and a functional assay of calpain-3 autolytic activity in 108 cases with LGMD and normal protein quantity. Subsequently, screening of CAPN3 gene mutations was performed using allele-specific tests and simplified SSCP analysis. We diagnosed a total of 94 LGMD2A patients, carrying 66 different mutations (six are newly identified). The probability of diagnosing calpainopathy was very high in patients showing either a quantitative (80%) or a functional calpain-3 protein defect (88%). Our data show a high predictive value for reduced-absent calpain-3 or lost autolytic activity. These biochemical assays are powerful tools for otherwise laborious genetic screening of cases with a high probability of being primary calpainopathy. Our multistep diagnostic approach is rational and highly effective. This strategy has improved the detection rate of the disease and our extension of screening to presymptomatic phenotypes (hyperCKemia) has allowed us to obtain early diagnoses, which has important consequences for patient care and genetic counseling.
LGMD2A; calpain-3; limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; protein testing; molecular diagnosis
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with mutations of the survival motor neuron gene SMN and is characterized by muscle weakness and atrophy caused by degeneration of spinal motor neurons. SMN has a role in neurons but its deficiency may have a direct effect on muscle tissue.
We applied microarray and quantitative real-time PCR to study at transcriptional level the effects of a defective SMN gene in skeletal muscles affected by the two forms of SMA: the most severe type I and the mild type III.
The two forms of SMA generated distinct expression signatures: the SMA III muscle transcriptome is close to that found under normal conditions, whereas in SMA I there is strong alteration of gene expression. Genes implicated in signal transduction were up-regulated in SMA III whereas those of energy metabolism and muscle contraction were consistently down-regulated in SMA I. The expression pattern of gene networks involved in atrophy signaling was completed by qRT-PCR, showing that specific pathways are involved, namely IGF/PI3K/Akt, TNF-α/p38 MAPK and Ras/ERK pathways.
Our study suggests a different picture of atrophy pathways in each of the two forms of SMA. In particular, p38 may be the regulator of protein synthesis in SMA I. The SMA III profile appears as the result of the concurrent presence of atrophic and hypertrophic fibers. This more favorable condition might be due to the over-expression of MTOR that, given its role in the activation of protein synthesis, could lead to compensatory hypertrophy in SMA III muscle fibers.
Variants of unknown significance in the CAPN3 gene constitute a significant challenge for genetic counselling. Despite the frequency of intronic nucleotide changes in this gene (15–25% of all mutations), so far their pathogenicity has only been inferred by in-silico analysis, and occasionally, proven by RNA analysis. In this study, 5 different intronic variants (one novel) that bioinformatic tools predicted would affect RNA splicing, underwent comprehensive studies which were designed to prove they are disease-causing. Muscle mRNA from 15 calpainopathy patients was analyzed by RT-PCR and splicing-specific-PCR tests. We established the previously unrecognized pathogenicity of these mutations, which caused aberrant splicing, most frequently by the activation of cryptic splicing sites or, occasionally, by exon skipping. The absence or severe reduction of protein demonstrated their deleterious effect at translational level. We concluded that bioinformatic tools are valuable to suggest the potential effects of intronic variants; however, the experimental demonstration of the pathogenicity is not always easy to do even when using RNA analysis (low abundance, degradation mechanisms), and it might not be successful unless splicing-specific-PCR tests are used. A comprehensive approach is therefore recommended to identify and describe unclassified variants in order to offer essential data for basic and clinical geneticists. ©2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
CAPN3; LGMD2 A; calpainopathy; intronic variants; pathogenetic mutations; splicing