Smchd1 haploinsufficiency exacerbates the phenotype of a transgenic FSHD1 mouse model


In humans, a copy of the DUX4 retrogene is located in each unit of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat that normally comprises 8-100 units. The D4Z4 repeat has heterochromatic features and does not express DUX4 in somatic cells. Individuals with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) have a partial failure of somatic DUX4 repression resulting in the presence of DUX4 protein in sporadic muscle nuclei. Somatic DUX4 derepression is caused by contraction of the D4Z4 repeat to 1-10 units (FSHD1) or by heterozygous mutations in genes responsible for maintaining the D4Z4 chromatin structure in a repressive state (FSHD2). One of the FSHD2 genes is the structural maintenance of chromosomes hinge domain 1 (SMCHD1) gene. SMCHD1 mutations have also been identified in FSHD1; patients carrying a contracted D4Z4 repeat and a SMCHD1 mutation are more severely affected than relatives with only a contracted repeat or a SMCHD1 mutation. To evaluate the modifier role of SMCHD1, the authors crossbred mice carrying a contracted D4Z4 repeat (D4Z4-2.5 mice) with mice that are haploinsufficient for Smchd1 (Smchd1MommeD1 mice). D4Z4-2.5/Smchd1MommeD1 mice presented with a significantly reduced body weight and developed skin lesions. The same skin lesions, albeit in a milder form, were also observed in D4Z4-2.5 mice, suggesting that reduced Smchd1 levels aggravate disease in the D4Z4-2.5 mouse model. This study emphasizes the evolutionary conservation of the SMCHD1-dependent epigenetic regulation of the D4Z4 repeat array and further suggests that the D4Z4-2.5/Smchd1MommeD1 mouse model may be used to unravel the function of DUX4 in non-muscle tissues like the skin.

de Greef JC, Krom YD, den Hamer B, et al. Smchd1 haploinsufficiency exacerbates the phenotype of a transgenic FSHD1 mouse model. Hum Mol Genet. 2017 Dec 21.. [Epub ahead of print]