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Myology research highlights

Discover our weekly selection of scientific and medical publications in the field of myology and of neuromuscular diseases :  summary of each publication aimed at the general reader, highlighting the main points of the article and the authors’ conclusions
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For your information, there are at present more than 1250 news items on myology online.
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31/03/2015 - A novel cardiac and skeletal protein aggregate myopathy

Protein aggregate myopathies (PAMs) define muscle disorders characterised by protein accumulation in muscle fibres. The authors describe a new PAM in a patient with proximal muscle weakness and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, whose muscle fibres contained inclusions containing myosin and myosin-associated proteins, and aberrant distribution of microtubules. These lesions appear as intact A- and M-bands lacking thin filaments and Z-discs. These features differ from inclusions in myosin storage myopathy (MSM), but are highly similar to those in mice deficient for the muscle-specific RING finger proteins MuRF1 and MuRF3. Analysis of seven family members revealed that both mutations segregated in the family but only the homozygous TRIM63 null mutation in combination with the heterozygous TRIM54 mutation found in the proband caused the disease phenotype. Both MuRFs are microtubule-associated proteins localising to sarcomeric M-bands and Z-discs. They are E3 ubiquitin ligases that play a role in degradation of sarcomeric proteins, stabilisation of microtubules and myogenesis. Lack of ubiquitin and the 20S proteasome subunit in the inclusions found in the patient suggested impaired turnover of thick filament proteins. Disruption of microtubules in cultured myotubes was rescued by transient expression of wild-type MuRF1. The unique features of this novel myopathy point to defects in homeostasis of A-band proteins in combination with instability of microtubules as cause of the disease.

31/03/2015 - Deficiency of leiomodin-3 causes nemaline myopathy in mice

Maintenance of skeletal muscle structure and function requires a precise stoichiometry of sarcomeric proteins for proper assembly of the contractile apparatus. Absence of components of the sarcomeric thin filaments causes nemaline myopathy, a lethal congenital muscle disorder associated with aberrant myofiber structure and contractility. Previously, the authors reported that deficiency of the kelch-like family member 40 (KLHL40) in mice results in nemaline myopathy and destabilization of leiomodin-3 (LMOD3). LMOD3 belongs to a family of tropomodulin-related proteins that promote actin nucleation. Here, they show that deficiency of LMOD3 in mice causes nemaline myopathy. In skeletal muscle, transcription of Lmod3 was controlled by the transcription factors SRF and MEF2. Myocardin-related transcription factors (MRTFs), which function as SRF coactivators, serve as sensors of actin polymerization and are sequestered in the cytoplasm by actin monomers. Conversely, conditions that favor actin polymerization de-repress MRTFs and activate SRF-dependent genes. The authors have demonstrated that the actin nucleator LMOD3, together with its stabilizing partner KLHL40, enhances MRTF-SRF activity. In turn, SRF cooperated with MEF2 to sustain the expression of LMOD3 and other components of the contractile apparatus, thereby establishing a regulatory circuit to maintain skeletal muscle function. These findings provide insight into the molecular basis of the sarcomere assembly and muscle dysfunction associated with nemaline myopathy.

31/03/2015 - Prevalence of late-onset Pompe disease in a high-risk population

This multicentre observational study aimed to assess the prevalence of late-onset Pompe disease (LOPD) in a large high-risk population, using the dried blood spot (DBS) as a main screening tool. A total of 17 Italian neuromuscular centres were involved in the late-onset Pompe early diagnosis (LOPED) study. Patients age ≥5 years, with persistent hyperCKaemia and  muscle weakness at upper and/or lower limbs (limb-girdle muscle weakness, LGMW) were included in the study. Acid α-glucosidase (GAA) activity was measured separately on DBS by fluorometric as well as tandem mass spectrometry methods. A DBS retest was performed in positive patients at first assay. For the final diagnosis, GAA deficiency was confirmed by a biochemical assay in skeletal muscle, whereas genotype was assessed by GAA molecular analysis. In a 14-month period, 1051 cases were studied: 30 positive samples (2.9%) were detected by first DBS screening, whereas, after retesting, 21 samples were still positive. Biochemical and molecular genetic studies finally confirmed LOPD diagnosis in 17 cases (1.6%). The median time from the onset of symptoms/signs to diagnosis was 5 years. Among those patients, 35% showed presymptomatic hyperCKaemia and 59% showed hyperCKaemia+LGMW, whereas 6% manifested with LGMW.LOPED study suggests that GAA activity should be accurately screened by DBS in all patients referring for isolated hyperCKaemia and/or LGMW. A timely diagnosis was performed in five patients with presymptomatic hyperCKaemia, but two had already manifested with relevant changes on muscle morphology and MRI. Consequently, enzyme replacement therapy was started in 14/17 patients, including the 2 patients still clinically presymptomatic but with a laboratory evidence of disease progression.

31/03/2015 - Asymptomatic Pompe disease: To treat or not to treat?

Acid alpha-glucosidase deficiency, i.e. Pompe disease, is a glycogenosis for which enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is available. It is not known whether patients diagnosed at an asymptomatic stage should be treated in order to prevent progression of the disease. Here, the authors investigated 7 patients with asymptomatic Pompe disease identified from the French Pompe registry. The patients had a mean age of 45 years (24-75), a median follow-up duration of 2 years (1-22), and normal clinical examination, pulmonary function tests (PFT), and echocardiography. All presented with at least 1 subclinical abnormality, including hyperCKemia, vacuolar myopathy, and muscle magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities, suggesting that subclinical myopathy was present in all cases. Asymptomatic Pompe disease may remain clinically silent for decades, and affected patients should be monitored closely for overt myopathy using clinical examination, PFTs, and muscle MRI in order to determine when to start ERT.

20/03/2015 - Diagnostic value of the non-ischaemic forearm exercise test in detecting glycogenosis type V

The study is a retrospective diagnostic study over 15 years (1999-2013) on a referred sample of patients suffering from exercise intolerance and various muscle complaints, generally with elevated creatine kinase (CK). In all, 1226 patients underwent the non-ischaemic forearm exercise test. Blood lactate, ammonia and CK levels were analyzed. DNA analyses and/or muscle biopsies were assessed to confirm the diagnosis of McArdle's disease. The results of 60 volunteers were used to compare with the results of study subjects. In this cohort, 40 patients were finally diagnosed with McArdle's disease. Absolute values of lactate and ammonia rise were used to discriminate all McArdle patients from healthy patients. A sensitivity and specificity of respectively 100% and 99.7% were calculated. The 24-h CK level showed no significant difference from the CK level at the day of the test and confirms the safety of the test. This study has formally assessed the diagnostic value of the non-ischaemic forearm exercise test in the detection of McArdle's disease. Very high sensitivity and specificity were observed. Furthermore, the test is easy to set up and to perform, it is non-traumatic and cost effective. It may circumvent a muscle biopsy in McArdle patients presenting the most common mutations. Hence, it is a perfect and safe screening instrument to detect patients with McArdle's disease. Glycogen storage disease type III patients, however, may show similar patterns to McArdle patients.

20/03/2015 - Zebra body myopathy: 40 years later

This study presents follow up data on the original case of 'zebra body myopathy' published by Lake and Wilson in 1975. Pathological features in a second biopsy performed at the age of 29 years included a wide variation in fibre size, multiple split fibres, excess internal nuclei and endomysial connective tissue, rimmed vacuoles, accumulation of myofibrillar material and large 'wiped out' areas lacking stain for oxidative enzymes. The presence of nemaline rods and actin-like filaments in addition to small zebra bodies suggested ACTA1 as a candidate gene. This has been confirmed by the identification of a novel c.1043T.p.Leu348Gln mutation, which probably occurred de novo. This case illustrates that the myopathy associated with zebra bodies is part of the spectrum of myopathies associated with the ACTA1 gene. It also highlights that accumulation of actin filaments is not confined to severe neonatal ACTA1 cases and that progression of weakness can occur in congenital myopathies, as the patient is now wheelchair bound and can only stand with the aid of a walking frame.

20/03/2015 - Skeletal muscle quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance imaging follow-up of adult Pompe patients

Adult late-onset Pompe disease is most often a slowly progressive limb-girdle and spine extensor muscle dystrophy, due to defective lysosomal acid maltase. With the exception of the few patients who present with a dramatically accelerated clinical course, standard diagnostic imaging fail to detect and evaluate disease progression between two successive visits. In muscle dystrophy of very rapid evolution, like the Duchenne disease, quantitative NMR imaging has successfully demonstrated its capacity to objectivate both disease activity and degenerative changes progression over short follow-up periods. The purpose of this retrospective monocentric open-label study was to investigate whether quantitative NMR imaging can monitor disease progression in adult Pompe patients despite its very slow nature. Quantitative imaging of Pompe patients succeeded in demonstrating that muscle fatty infiltration increased on average by 0.9 %/year, with the hamstring and adductor muscles showing the fastest degradation. Muscle water T2 mapping revealed that 32 % of all muscles had abnormally high T2 in at least one of two successive examinations. When muscle water T2 was abnormal, fatty degenerative changes were further increased by 0.61 %/year. Enzyme replacement therapy resulted in 0.68 %/year slowdown of the muscle fatty infiltration, in both muscles with normal and high T2s.

20/03/2015 - Relationship between the ventilatory response to CO2 and the impairment of lung function in DM1 patients

Myotonic dystrophy Type 1 (DM1) is the most common muscular dystrophy in adults. Respiratory failure is common but clinical findings support a dysregulation of the control of breathing at central level, furthermore contributing to alveolar hypoventilation independently of the severity of respiratory weakness. Here, the authors investigated the relationship between the ventilatory response to CO2 and the impairment of lung function in DM1 patients. Sixty-nine DM1 patients were prospectively investigated (43.5 ± 12.7 years). Systematic pulmonary lung function evaluation including spirometry, plethysmography, measurements of respiratory muscle strength, arterial blood gas analysis and ventilatory response to CO2 were performed. Thirty-one DM1 patients (45%) presented a ventilatory restriction, 38 (55%) were hypoxaemic and 15 (22%) were hypercapnic. Total lung capacity decline was correlated to hypoxaemia (p = 0.0008) and hypercapnia (p = 0.0013), but not to a decrease in ventilatory response to CO2 (p = 0.194). Ventilatory response to CO2 was reduced to 0.85 ± 0.67 L/min/mmHg and not correlated to respiratory muscle weakness. Ventilatory response to CO2 was neither different among restricted/non-restricted patients (p = 0.2395) nor among normoxaemic/hypoxaemic subjects (p = 0.6380). The reduced ventilatory response to CO2 in DM1 patients appeared independent of lung function impairment and respiratory muscle weakness, suggesting a central cause of CO2 insensitivity.

20/03/2015 - Genome modification to reverse DM1 phenotypes

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by expanded CTG repeats in the 3'-untranslated region (3' UTR) of the DMPK gene. Correcting the mutation in DM1 stem cells would be an important step towards autologous stem cell therapy. The objective of this study is to demonstrate in vitro genome editing to prevent production of toxic mutant transcripts and reverse phenotypes in DM1 stem cells. Genome editing was performed in DM1 neural stem cells (NSCs) derived from human DM1 iPS cells. An editing cassette containing SV40/bGH polyA signals was integrated upstream of the CTG repeats by TALEN-mediated homologous recombination (HR). The expression of mutant CUG repeats transcript was monitored by nuclear RNA foci, the molecular hallmarks of DM1, using RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (RNA-FISH). Alternative splicing of microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) and muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins were analyzed to further monitor the phenotype reversal after genome modification. The cassette was successfully inserted into DMPK intron 9 and this genomic modification led to complete disappearance of nuclear RNA foci. MAPT and MBNL 1, 2 aberrant splicing in DM1 NSCs was reversed to normal pattern in genome-modified NSCs. Interpretation: Genome modification by integration of exogenous polyA signals upstream of the DMPK CTG repeat expansion prevents the production of toxic RNA and leads to phenotype reversal in human DM1 iPS-cells derived stem cells. These data provide proof-of-principle evidence that genome modification may be used to generate genetically modified progenitor cells as a first step toward autologous cell transfer therapy for DM1. 

20/03/2015 - FSHD pathology: role of miRNA

Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is an autosomal-dominant disorder and is one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. The authors have recently shown that some hallmarks of FSHD are already expressed in fetal FSHD biopsies, thus opening a new field of investigation for mechanisms leading to FSHD. As microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in myogenesis and muscle disorders,  miRNAs expression levels were compared during normal and FSHD muscle development. Muscle biopsies were obtained from quadriceps of both healthy control and FSHD1 fetuses with ages ranging from 14 to 33 weeks of development. miRNA expression profiles were analyzed using TaqMan Human MicroRNA Arrays. During human skeletal muscle development, in control muscle biopsies changes for 4 miRNAs potentially involved in secondary muscle fiber formation and 5 miRNAs potentially involved in fiber maturation were observed. When the miRNA profiles obtained from control and FSHD biopsies were compared, no differences in the muscle specific miRNAs were observed. However, 8 miRNAs exclusively expressed in FSHD1 samples (miR-330, miR-331-5p, miR-34a, miR-380-3p, miR-516b, miR-582-5p, miR-517* and miR-625) were observed, which could represent new biomarkers for this disease. Their putative targets are mainly involved in muscle development and morphogenesis. Interestingly, these FSHD1 specific miRNAs do not target the genes previously described to be involved in FSHD. This work provides new candidate mechanisms potentially involved in the onset of FSHD pathology. Whether these FSHD specific miRNAs cause deregulations during fetal development, or protect against the appearance of the FSHD phenotype until the second decade of life still needs to be investigated.

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