Winter J, Joureau B, Sequeira V, Clarke N, Velden J, Stienen G, Granzier H, Beggs A, Ottenheijm C. Effect of levosimendan on the contractility of muscle fibers from nemaline myopathy patients with mutations in the nebulin gene. Skelet Muscle. 2015;5:12. doi:10.1186/s13395-015-0037-7
BACKGROUND: Nemaline myopathy (NM), the most common non-dystrophic congenital myopathy, is characterized by generalized skeletal muscle weakness, often from birth. To date, no therapy exists that enhances the contractile strength of muscles of NM patients. Mutations in NEB, encoding the giant protein nebulin, are the most common cause of NM. The pathophysiology of muscle weakness in NM patients with NEB mutations (NEB-NM) includes a lower calcium-sensitivity of force generation. We propose that the lower calcium-sensitivity of force generation in NEB-NM offers a therapeutic target. Levosimendan is a calcium sensitizer that is approved for use in humans and has been developed to target cardiac muscle fibers. It exerts its effect through binding to slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C. As slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C is also the dominant troponin C isoform in slow-twitch skeletal muscle fibers, we hypothesized that levosimendan improves slow-twitch muscle fiber strength at submaximal levels of activation in patients with NEB-NM. METHODS: To test whether levosimendan affects force production, permeabilized slow-twitch muscle fibers isolated from biopsies of NEB-NM patients and controls were exposed to levosimendan and the force response was measured. RESULTS: No effect of levosimendan on muscle fiber force in NEB-NM and control skeletal muscle fibers was found, both at a submaximal calcium level using incremental levosimendan concentrations, and at incremental calcium concentrations in the presence of levosimendan. In contrast, levosimendan did significantly increase the calcium-sensitivity of force in human single cardiomyocytes. Protein analysis confirmed that the slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C isoform was present in the skeletal muscle fibers tested. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that levosimendan does not improve the contractility in human skeletal muscle fibers, and do not provide rationale for using levosimendan as a therapeutic to restore muscle weakness in NEB-NM patients. We stress the importance of searching for compounds that improve the calcium-sensitivity of force generation of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Such compounds provide an appealing approach to restore muscle force in patients with NEB-NM, and also in patients with other neuromuscular disorders.
Zukosky K, Meilleur K, Traynor B, Dastgir J, Medne L, Devoto M, Collins J, Rooney J, Zou Y, Yang M, et al. Association of a Novel ACTA1 Mutation With a Dominant Progressive Scapuloperoneal Myopathy in an Extended Family. JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(6):689–98. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.37
IMPORTANCE: New genomic strategies can now be applied to identify a diagnosis in patients and families with previously undiagnosed rare genetic conditions. The large family evaluated in the present study was described in 1966 and now expands the phenotype of a known neuromuscular gene. OBJECTIVE: To determine the genetic cause of a slowly progressive, autosomal dominant, scapuloperoneal neuromuscular disorder by using linkage and exome sequencing. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Fourteen affected individuals in a 6-generation family with a progressive scapuloperoneal disorder were evaluated. Participants were examined at pediatric, neuromuscular, and research clinics from March 1, 2005, to May 31, 2014. Exome and linkage were performed in genetics laboratories of research institutions. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Examination and evaluation by magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasonography, electrodiagnostic studies, and muscle biopsies (n = 3). Genetic analysis included linkage analysis (n = 17) with exome sequencing (n = 7). RESULTS: Clinical findings included progressive muscle weakness in an initially scapuloperoneal and distal distribution, including wrist extensor weakness, finger and foot drop, scapular winging, mild facial weakness, Achilles tendon contractures, and diminished or absent deep tendon reflexes. Both age at onset and progression of the disease showed clinical variability within the family. Muscle biopsy specimens demonstrated type I fiber atrophy and trabeculated fibers without nemaline rods. Analysis of exome sequences within the linkage region (4.8 megabases) revealed missense mutation c.591C>A p.Glu197Asp in a highly conserved residue in exon 4 of ACTA1. The mutation cosegregated with disease in all tested individuals and was not present in unaffected individuals. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This family defines a new scapuloperoneal phenotype associated with an ACTA1 mutation. A highly conserved protein, ACTA1 is implicated in multiple muscle diseases, including nemaline myopathy, actin aggregate myopathy, fiber-type disproportion, and rod-core myopathy. To our knowledge, mutations in Glu197 have not been reported previously. This residue is highly conserved and located in an exposed position in the protein; the mutation affects the intermolecular and intramolecular electrostatic interactions as shown by structural modeling. The mutation in this residue does not appear to lead to rod formation or actin accumulation in vitro or in vivo, suggesting a different molecular mechanism from that of other ACTA1 diseases.
Morton S, Joshi M, Savic T, Beggs A, Agrawal P. Skeletal muscle microRNA and messenger RNA profiling in cofilin-2 deficient mice reveals cell cycle dysregulation hindering muscle regeneration. PLoS One. 2015;10(4):e0123829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123829
Congenital myopathies are rare skeletal muscle diseases presenting in early age with hypotonia and weakness often linked to a genetic defect. Mutations in the gene for cofilin-2 (CFL2) have been identified in several families as a cause of congenital myopathy with nemaline bodies and cores. Here we explore the global messenger and microRNA expression patterns in quadriceps muscle samples from cofillin-2-null mice and compare them with sibling-matched wild-type mice to determine the molecular pathways and mechanisms involved. Cell cycle processes are markedly dysregulated, with altered expression of genes involved in mitotic spindle formation, and evidence of loss of cell cycle checkpoint regulation. Importantly, alterations in cell cycle, apoptosis and proliferation pathways are present in both mRNA and miRNA expression patterns. Specifically, p21 transcript levels were increased, and the expression of p21 targets, such as cyclin D and cyclin E, was decreased. We therefore hypothesize that deficiency of cofilin-2 is associated with interruption of the cell cycle at several checkpoints, hindering muscle regeneration. Identification of these pathways is an important step towards developing appropriate therapies against various congenital myopathies.
Ceyhan-Birsoy O, Talim B, Swanson L, Karakaya M, Graff M, Beggs A, Topaloglu H. Whole Exome Sequencing Reveals DYSF, FKTN, and ISPD Mutations in Congenital Muscular Dystrophy Without Brain or Eye Involvement. J Neuromuscul Dis. 2015;2(1):87–92. doi:10.3233/JND-140038
BACKGROUND: Congenital muscular dystrophies (CMDs) are a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of neuromuscular disorders. Several genes encoding extracellular matrix, nuclear envelope, sarcolemmal proteins and glycosylation enzymes have been implicated in CMDs. The large overlap of clinical presentations due to mutations in different genes poses a challenge for clinicians in determining disease etiology for each patient. OBJECTIVE: We investigated the use of whole exome sequencing (WES) in identifying the genetic cause of disease in 5 CMD patients from 3 families who presented with highly similar clinical features, including early-onset rapidly progressive weakness without brain or eye abnormalities. METHODS: Whole exome sequencing was performed on DNA from affected individuals. Potential functional impacts of mutations were investigated by immunostaining on available muscle biopsies. RESULTS: Pathogenic mutations in 3 different genes, DYSF, FKTN, and ISPD were identified in each family. Mutation in DYSF led to absence of dysferlin protein in patient muscle. Mutations in ISPD led to impaired ISDP function, as demonstrated by deficiency of α-dystroglycan glycosylation in patient muscle. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the benefit of unbiased genomic approaches in molecular diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders with high clinical heterogeneity, such as the phenotypes observed in our patients. Our results suggest that dysferlin deficiency should be in the differential diagnosis of congenital and rapidly progressive muscular dystrophy, and therefore dysferlin antibody should be in the standard immunohistochemistry panel for muscle biopsies in cases with suspected CMD.
Thaker V, Esteves K, Towne M, Brownstein C, James P, Crowley L, Hirschhorn J, Elsea S, Beggs A, Picker J, et al. Whole Exome Sequencing Identifies RAI1 Mutation in a Morbidly Obese Child Diagnosed With ROHHAD Syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(5):1723–30. doi:10.1210/jc.2014-4215
CONTEXT: The current obesity epidemic is attributed to complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. However, a limited number of cases, especially those with early-onset severe obesity, are linked to single gene defects. Rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation and autonomic dysregulation (ROHHAD) is one of the syndromes that presents with abrupt-onset extreme weight gain with an unknown genetic basis. OBJECTIVE: To identify the underlying genetic etiology in a child with morbid early-onset obesity, hypoventilation, and autonomic and behavioral disturbances who was clinically diagnosed with ROHHAD syndrome. Design/Setting/Intervention: The index patient was evaluated at an academic medical center. Whole-exome sequencing was performed on the proband and his parents. Genetic variants were validated by Sanger sequencing. RESULTS: We identified a novel de novo nonsense mutation, c.3265 C>T (p.R1089X), in the retinoic acid-induced 1 (RAI1) gene in the proband. Mutations in the RAI1 gene are known to cause Smith-Magenis syndrome (SMS). On further evaluation, his clinical features were not typical of either SMS or ROHHAD syndrome. CONCLUSIONS: This study identifies a de novo RAI1 mutation in a child with morbid obesity and a clinical diagnosis of ROHHAD syndrome. Although extreme early-onset obesity, autonomic disturbances, and hypoventilation are present in ROHHAD, several of the clinical findings are consistent with SMS. This case highlights the challenges in the diagnosis of ROHHAD syndrome and its potential overlap with SMS. We also propose RAI1 as a candidate gene for children with morbid obesity.
Shelton D, Rider B, Child G, Tzannes S, Guo L, Moghadaszadeh B, Troiano E, Haase B, Wade C, Beggs A. X-linked myotubular myopathy in Rottweiler dogs is caused by a missense mutation in Exon 11 of the MTM1 gene. Skelet Muscle. 2015;5(1):1. doi:10.1186/s13395-014-0025-3
BACKGROUND: Congenital and inherited myopathies in dogs are faithful models of human muscle diseases and are being recognized with increasing frequency. In fact, canine models of dystrophin deficient muscular dystrophy and X-linked myotubular myopathy are of tremendous value in the translation of new and promising therapies for the treatment of these diseases. We have recently identified a family of Australian Rottweilers in which male puppies were clinically affected with severe muscle weakness and atrophy that resulted in early euthanasia or death. X-linked myotubular myopathy was suspected based on the early and severe clinical presentation and histopathological changes within muscle biopsies. The aim of this study was to determine the genetic basis for myopathy in these dogs and compare and contrast the clinical presentation, histopathology, ultrastructure, and mutation in this family of Rottweiler dogs with the previously described myotubular myopathy in Labrador retrievers. RESULTS: Histopathology, histochemistry, and ultrastructural examination of muscle biopsies from affected Rottweiler puppies were consistent with an X-linked myotubular myopathy. An unusual finding that differed from the previously reported Labradors and similar human cases was the presence of excessive autophagy and prominent autophagic vacuoles. Molecular investigations confirmed a missense mutation in exon 11 of MTM1 that was predicted to result in a non-functional phosphatase activity. Although the clinical presentations and histopathology were similar, the MTM1 p.(Q384P) mutation is different from the p.(N155K) mutation in exon 7 affecting Labrador retrievers with X-linked myotubular myopathy. CONCLUSIONS: Here we describe a second pathogenic mutation in MTM1 causing X-linked myotubular myopathy in dogs. Our findings suggest a variety of MTM1 mutations in dogs as seen in human patients. The number of MTM1 mutations resulting in similar severe and progressive clinical myopathy and histopathological changes are likely to increase as canine myopathies are further characterized.
Snead, Taylor, Kooij, Cosford, Beggs A, Shelton. Clinical phenotype of X-linked myotubular myopathy in labrador retriever puppies. J Vet Intern Med. 2015;29(1):254–60. doi:10.1111/jvim.12513
BACKGROUND: Seven male Labrador Retriever puppies from 3 different litters, born to clinically normal dams and sires, were evaluated for progressive weakness and muscle atrophy. Muscle biopsies identified a congenital myopathy with pathologic features consistent with myotubular myopathy. Further investigations identified a pathogenic mutation in the myotubularin gene, confirming that these puppies had X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM). OBJECTIVE: To review the clinical phenotype, electrodiagnostic and laboratory features of XLMTM in this cohort of Labrador Retrievers. RESULTS: Male puppies with XLMTM were small and thin compared with their normal littermates. Generalized weakness and muscle atrophy were present by 7 weeks of age in some puppies and evident to most owners by 14 weeks of age. Affected puppies stood with an arched spine and low head carriage, and walked with a short, choppy stride. Muscle atrophy was severe and progressive. Patellar reflexes were absent. Laryngeal and esophageal dysfunction, and weakness of the masticatory muscles occurred in puppies surviving beyond 4 months of age. Serum creatine kinase activity was normal or only mildly increased. EMG findings were nonspecific and included positive sharp waves and fibrillation potentials. Clinical signs progressed rapidly, with most affected puppies unable to walk within 3-4 weeks after clinical signs were first noticed. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE: Although initial clinical signs of XLMTM are similar to the phenotypically milder centronuclear myopathy in Labrador Retrievers, XLMTM is a rapidly progressive and fatal myopathy. Clinicians should be aware of these 2 distinct myopathies with similar clinical presentations in the Labrador retriever breed.


Sarwal A, Cartwright M, Walker F, Mitchell E, Buj-Bello A, Beggs A, Childers M. Ultrasound assessment of the diaphragm: Preliminary study of a canine model of X-linked myotubular myopathy. Muscle Nerve. 2014;50(4):607–9. doi:10.1002/mus.24294
INTRODUCTION: We tested the feasibility of using neuromuscular ultrasound for non-invasive real-time assessment of diaphragmatic structure and function in a canine model of X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM). METHODS: Ultrasound images in 3 dogs [wild-type (WT), n=1; XLMTM untreated, n=1; XLMTM post-AAV8-mediated MTM1 gene replacement, n=1] were analyzed for diaphragm thickness, change in thickness with respiration, muscle echogenicity, and diaphragm excursion amplitude during spontaneous breathing. RESULTS: Quantitative parameters of diaphragm structure were different among the animals. WT diaphragm was thicker and less echogenic than the XLMTM control, whereas the diaphragm measurements of the MTM1-treated XLMTM dog were comparable to those of the WT dog. CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility of using ultrasound for quantitative assessment of the diaphragm in a canine model. In the future, ultrasonography may replace invasive measures of diaphragm function in canine models and in humans for non-invasive respiratory monitoring and evaluation of neuromuscular disease.
Lawlor M, Viola M, Meng H, Edelstein R, Liu F, Yan K, Luna E, Lerch-Gaggl A, Hoffmann R, Pierson C, et al. Differential muscle hypertrophy is associated with satellite cell numbers and Akt pathway activation following activin type IIB receptor inhibition in Mtm1 p.R69C mice. Am J Pathol. 2014;184(6):1831–42. doi:10.1016/j.ajpath.2014.03.003
X-linked myotubular myopathy is a congenital myopathy caused by deficiency of myotubularin. Patients often present with severe perinatal weakness, requiring mechanical ventilation to prevent death from respiratory failure. We recently reported that an activin receptor type IIB inhibitor produced hypertrophy of type 2b myofibers and modest increases of strength and life span in the severely myopathic Mtm1δ4 mouse model of X-linked myotubular myopathy. We have now performed a similar study in the less severely symptomatic Mtm1 p.R69C mouse in hopes of finding greater treatment efficacy. Activin receptor type IIB inhibitor treatment of Mtm1 p.R69C animals produced behavioral and histological evidence of hypertrophy in gastrocnemius muscles but not in quadriceps or triceps. The ability of the muscles to respond to activin receptor type IIB inhibitor treatment correlated with treatment-induced increases in satellite cell number and several muscle-specific abnormalities of hypertrophic signaling. Treatment-responsive Mtm1 p.R69C gastrocnemius muscles displayed lower levels of phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6 and higher levels of phosphorylated eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase than were observed in Mtm1 p.R69C quadriceps muscle or in muscles from wild-type littermates. Hypertrophy in the Mtm1 p.R69C gastrocnemius muscle was associated with increased levels of phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6. Our findings indicate that muscle-, fiber type-, and mutation-specific factors affect the response to hypertrophic therapies that will be important to assess in future therapeutic trials.
Yuen M, Sandaradura S, Dowling J, Kostyukova A, Moroz N, Quinlan K, Lehtokari V-L, Ravenscroft G, Todd E, Ceyhan-Birsoy O, et al. Leiomodin-3 dysfunction results in thin filament disorganization and nemaline myopathy. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(11):4693–708. doi:10.1172/JCI75199
Nemaline myopathy (NM) is a genetic muscle disorder characterized by muscle dysfunction and electron-dense protein accumulations (nemaline bodies) in myofibers. Pathogenic mutations have been described in 9 genes to date, but the genetic basis remains unknown in many cases. Here, using an approach that combined whole-exome sequencing (WES) and Sanger sequencing, we identified homozygous or compound heterozygous variants in LMOD3 in 21 patients from 14 families with severe, usually lethal, NM. LMOD3 encodes leiomodin-3 (LMOD3), a 65-kDa protein expressed in skeletal and cardiac muscle. LMOD3 was expressed from early stages of muscle differentiation; localized to actin thin filaments, with enrichment near the pointed ends; and had strong actin filament-nucleating activity. Loss of LMOD3 in patient muscle resulted in shortening and disorganization of thin filaments. Knockdown of lmod3 in zebrafish replicated NM-associated functional and pathological phenotypes. Together, these findings indicate that mutations in the gene encoding LMOD3 underlie congenital myopathy and demonstrate that LMOD3 is essential for the organization of sarcomeric thin filaments in skeletal muscle.