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.
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; D4Z4 reduced allele; genotype–phenotype correlations; penetrance; disease expression
Pathological and imaging data indicate that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a multisystem disease involving several cerebral cortical areas. Advanced quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques enable to explore in vivo the volume and microstructure of the cerebral cortex in ALS. We studied with a combined voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and magnetization transfer (MT) imaging approach the capability of MRI to identify the cortical areas affected by neurodegeneration in ALS patients. Eighteen ALS patients and 18 age-matched healthy controls were examined on a 1.5T scanner using a high-resolution 3D T1 weighted spoiled gradient recalled sequence with and without MT saturation pulse. A voxel-based analysis (VBA) was adopted in order to automatically compute the regional atrophy and MT ratio (MTr) changes of the entire cerebral cortex. By using a multimodal image analysis MTr was adjusted for local gray matter (GM) atrophy to investigate if MTr changes can be independent of atrophy of the cerebral cortex. VBA revealed several clusters of combined GM atrophy and MTr decrease in motor-related areas and extra-motor frontotemporal cortex. The multimodal image analysis identified areas of isolated MTr decrease in premotor and extra-motor frontotemporal areas. VBM and MTr are capable to detect the distribution of neurodegenerative alterations in the cortical GM of ALS patients, supporting the hypothesis of a multi-systemic involvement in ALS. MT imaging changes exist beyond volume loss in frontotemporal cortices.
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.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder resulting from motor neuron death. Approximately 10% of cases are familial (FALS), typically with a dominant inheritance mode. Despite numerous advances in recent years1-9, nearly 50% of FALS cases have unknown genetic etiology. Here we show that mutations within the profilin 1 (PFN1) gene can cause FALS. PFN1 is critical for monomeric (G)-actin conversion to filamentous (F)-actin. Exome sequencing of two large ALS families revealed different mutations within the PFN1 gene. Additional sequence analysis identified 4 mutations in 7 out of 274 FALS cases. Cells expressing PFN1 mutants contain ubiquitinated, insoluble aggregates that in many cases contain the ALS-associated protein TDP-43. PFN1 mutants also display decreased bound actin levels and can inhibit axon outgrowth. Furthermore, primary motor neurons expressing mutant PFN1 display smaller growth cones with a reduced F-/G-actin ratio. These observations further document that cytoskeletal pathway alterations contribute to ALS pathogenesis.
Tetracyclines are a class of antibiotics which could act as neuroprotective molecules in several neurological disorders, such as Huntington disease, Parkinson disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis. The main biological effects of tetracyclines are the inhibition of microglial activation, the attenuation of apoptosis and the suppression of reactive oxygen species production. The anti-apoptotic effect of tetracyclines involves the mitochondrion, and the major target for neuroprotective effects of tetracyclines lies within the complex network that links mitochondria, oxidative stress and apoptosis.
Neuromuscular disorders are due to dysfunction of motor neurons, peripheral nerves, neuromuscular junction, or skeletal muscle itself. Animal studies have shown that minocycline could play neuroprotective effects in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but these positive findings have not been replicated in patients. Other neuromuscular disorders which tetracyclines may benefit are Guillain-Barré syndrome and other neuropathies, muscular dystrophies and mitochondrial disorders. However, well-designed double-blind controlled trials are still needed. Further studies are strongly needed to establish the most appropriate timing and dosage, as well as the indications for which tetracyclines could be effective and safe.
Here, we review the neuroprotective effects of tetracyclines in animal models, the clinical studies in humans, and we focus on their potential application in patients with neuromuscular disorders.
Doxycycline; mitochondria; minocycline; neurodegeneration; PARP-1; progressive external ophthalmoplegia; ROS; tetracycline.
To analyze the contribution of progranulin (PGRN) to the etiopathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), we performed a PGRN gene screening in 146 Italian patients (12 familial cases) and evaluated the association of two common variants with risk of developing ALS in 239 sporadic cases (SALS). Progranulin mRNA and protein levels were measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and serum of a subset of these patients and controls. PGRN sequence analysis revealed a heterozygous change (p.S120Y), previously observed in an independent sporadic ALS-FTD patient. Haplotype analysis showed a conserved PGRN region among these two subjects consistent with possible common ancestor allele. Two non-coding polymorphisms were not associated to increased risk to develop ALS; mRNA and serum levels were not significantly different between cases and controls. Overall, our data argue against the hypothesis of progranulin as a major risk factor for motor neuron dysfunction, at least in Italian population. The p.S120Y variant may characterize rare patients with SALS, although its pathogenetic mechanism remains to be elucidated.
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.
Mitochondrial diseases; Muscle exercise; Aerobic training; Oxidative stress
The existence of an association between migraine and restless legs syndrome (RLS) has recently been reported, although the possible implications of this for migraine clinical presentation remain poorly understood. The objectives of this study were to determine RLS frequency in a population of migraineurs compared with healthy subjects and to assess RLS occurrence in episodic versus chronic migraine patients; the relationship between migraine-related disability and RLS comorbidity was also evaluated.
Two hundred and seventy-seven consecutive migraineurs (ICHD-II, 2004) were enrolled and compared with 200 controls; migraine was episodic in 175 and chronic in 102 patients. RLS (IRLSSG criteria, 2003) was present in 22.7% of the total sample of migraineurs and in 7.5% of the controls (p<0.0001). RLS occurred significantly more frequently in chronic compared with episodic migraineurs (34.3% vs 16%, respectively, p=0.0006); a significant association between RLS diagnosis and moderate-severe migraine-related disability was also documented (p=0.0003).
In conclusion, the results of the present study not only confirm the higher occurrence of RLS in migraine patients compared with the general population, but also suggest that RLS (the condition itself, or the disruption of sleep patterns often found in patients affected by RLS) might affect migraine clinical presentation, being associated with chronic and highly disabling migraine. These findings could have important therapeutic and prognostic implications in clinical practice.
chronic migraine; migraine; migraine disability; restless legs syndrome; sleep
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) dependent lifetime risks (LTRs) for Alzheimer Disease (AD) are currently not accurately known and odds ratios (ORs) alone are insufficient to assess these risks. We calculated AD lifetime risk in 7,351 cases and 10,132 controls from Caucasian ancestry using Rochester (USA) incidence data. At the age of 85 the LTR of AD without reference to APOE genotype was 11% in males and 14% in females. At the same age, this risk ranged from 51% for APOE44 male carriers to 60% for APOE44 female carriers, and from 23% for APOE34 male carriers to 30% for APOE34 female carriers, consistent with semi-dominant inheritance of a moderately penetrant gene. Using PAQUID (France) incidence data, estimates were globally similar except that at age 85 the LTRs reached 68% and 35 % for APOE 44 and APOE 34 female carriers, respectively. These risks are more similar to those of major genes in Mendelian diseases, such as BRCA1 in breast cancer, than those of low-risk common alleles identified by recent GWAS in complex diseases. In addition, stratification of our data by age- groups clearly demonstrates that APOE4 is a risk factor not only for late- onset but for early- onset AD as well. Together, these results urge a reappraisal of the impact of APOE in Alzheimer disease.
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.
Dystrophinopathy; Female carriers; X-inactivation; Transcriptional balancing
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.
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
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
Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, play a critical role in several metabolic processes and apoptotic pathways. Multiple evidences suggest that mitochondria may be crucial in ageing-related neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, mitochondrial haplogroups have been linked to multiple area of medicine, from normal ageing to diseases, including neurodegeneration. Polymorphisms within the mitochondrial genome might lead to impaired energy generation and to increased amount of reactive oxygen species, having either susceptibility or protective role in several diseases. Here, we highlight the role of the mitochondrial haplogroups in the pathogenetic cascade leading to diseases, with special attention to Alzheimer's disease.
The only established genetic determinant of non-Mendelian forms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the ε4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). Recently, it has been reported that the P86L polymorphism of the calcium homeostasis modulator 1 gene (CALHM1) is associated with the risk of developing AD. In order to independently assess this association, we performed a meta-analysis of 7,873 AD cases and 13,274 controls of Caucasian origin (from a total of 24 centres in Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA). Our results indicate that the CALHM1 P86L polymorphism is likely not a genetic determinant of AD but may modulate age at onset by interacting with the effect of the ε4 allele of the APOE gene.
Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is the most common autosomal recessive ataxia. Oxidative damage within the mitochondria seems to have a key role in the disease phenotype. Therefore, FRDA treatment options have been mostly directed at antioxidant protection against mitochondrial damage. Available evidence seems to suggest that patients with FRDA should be treated with idebenone, because it is well tolerated and may reduce cardiac hypertrophy and, at higher doses, also improve neurological function, but large controlled clinical trials are still needed. Alternatively, gene-based strategies for the treatment of FRDA may involve the development of small-molecules increasing frataxin gene transcription. Animal and human studies are strongly needed to assess whether any of the potential new treatment strategies, such as iron-chelating therapies or treatment with erythropoietin or histone deacetylase inhibitors and other gene-based strategies, may translate into an effective therapy for this devastating disorder. In this review, we try to provide an answer to some questions related to current and emerging treatment options in the management of FRDA.
frataxin; idebenone; oxidative stress
Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, play a critical role in several metabolic processes and apoptotic pathways. Many lines of evidence suggest that mitochondria have a central role in ageing-related neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, there is a long history of investigations on mitochondria aimed at identifying genetic markers relating to ageing and neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, some of the major neurodegenerative disorders are highlighted and the role of mitochondrial haplogroups in the pathogenetic cascade leading to these diseases is discussed.
mitochondria; mtDNA; mtDNA haplogroups; neurodegenerative disorders
BACKGROUND: The peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors (PBR) are localized on the outer mitochondrial membrane, as a constituent of mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT)-pore. Among its hypothesized functions, the regulation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and apoptosis have been suggested; in addition alterations of PBR site density have been shown in some neuropathologic conditions with putative mitochondrial involvement. The aim of this work has been to evaluate PBR kinetic binding parameters in platelets from patients affected by mitochondrial disorders (MD) with large-scale mitochondrial DNA deletions and reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using the specific PBR radioligand [(3) H] PK 11195, the kinetic binding parameters of PBR sites were determined in platelet membrane of 15 healthy subjects and 11 patients affected by different form of MD. RESULTS: Significant changes of dissociation constant (K(d)) and maximal number of binding sites (B(max)) values were evidenced in platelets of patients versus controls. In all patients the B(max) values were decreased (2,387.0 +/- 305.6 fmol/ mg proteins versus 4889.0 +/- 357.8 fmol/mg proteins, p< 0.05), whereas the K(d) values were higher in patients than controls (13.18 +/- 2.06 nM versus 5.63 +/- 0.46 nM, p< 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that the kinetic binding parameters of PBR are altered in MD and that the observed changes might be related to the mitochondrial dysfunction associated with MD.
BACKGROUND: Mitochondrial changes have been described in muscle tissue in acquired hypothyroidism. Among the molecular mechanisms by which thyroid hormones regulate expression of nuclear genes encoding for regulatory proteins of mitochondrial respiratory function, the mitochondrial transcription factor A (h-mtTFA) has been proposed to be a target of thyroid hormone action. The aim of this study has been to relate h-mtTFA levels in the skeletal muscle of patients affected by Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and myopathy (HHM) to muscle disease and thyroid status. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Eleven HHM patients underwent complete thyroid status and neurologic assessment, along with determination of exercise lactate anaerobic threshold (LT) and muscle biopsy in which h-mtTFA levels were measured and mtDNA was analyzed. RESULTS: Decreased exercise lactate threshold, presence of cytochrome c oxidase negative fibers, reduction of cytochrome c oxidase activity, and mitochondrial DNA copy number at muscle biopsy were indicative of mitochondrial involvement in these patients. Furthermore, muscle h-mtTFA levels were reduced to a variable extent in comparison with a group of euthyroid controls. The h-mtTFA levels were inversely correlated with TSH and LT lactate, and positively correlated with FT4. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that low levels of the h-mtTFA occur in skeletal muscle of HHM and suggest that abnormal h-mtTFA turnover may be implicated in the pathogenesis of mitochondrial alterations in this disease.