Department of Neurology; Department of Cell and Developmental Biology; Wellstone Program; Wellstone Center for FSHD
Cell Biology | Genetics | Musculoskeletal Diseases | Nervous System Diseases
BACKGROUND: Both forms of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) are associated with aberrant epigenetic regulation of the chromosome 4q35 D4Z4 macrosatellite. Chromatin changes due to large deletions of heterochromatin (FSHD1) or mutations in chromatin regulatory proteins (FSHD2) lead to relaxation of epigenetic repression and increased expression of the deleterious double homeobox 4 (DUX4) gene encoded within the distal D4Z4 repeat. However, many individuals with the genetic requirements for FSHD remain asymptomatic throughout their lives. Here we investigated family cohorts of FSHD1 individuals who were either affected (manifesting) or without any discernible weakness (nonmanifesting/asymptomatic) and their unaffected family members to determine if individual epigenetic status and stability of repression at the contracted 4q35 D4Z4 array in myocytes correlates with FSHD disease.
RESULTS: Family cohorts were analyzed for DNA methylation on the distal pathogenic 4q35 D4Z4 repeat on permissive A-type subtelomeres. We found DNA hypomethylation in FSHD1-affected subjects, hypermethylation in healthy controls, and distinctly intermediate levels of methylation in nonmanifesting subjects. We next tested if these differences in DNA methylation had functional relevance by assaying DUX4-fl expression and the stability of epigenetic repression of DUX4-fl in myogenic cells. Treatment with drugs that alter epigenetic status revealed that healthy cells were refractory to treatment, maintaining stable repression of DUX4, while FSHD1-affected cells were highly responsive to treatment and thus epigenetically poised to express DUX4. Myocytes from nonmanifesting subjects had significantly higher levels of DNA methylation and were more resistant to DUX4 activation in response to epigenetic drug treatment than cells from FSHD1-affected first-degree relatives containing the same contraction, indicating that the epigenetic status of the contracted D4Z4 array is reflective of disease.
CONCLUSIONS: The epigenetic status of the distal 4qA D4Z4 repeat correlates with FSHD disease; FSHD-affected subjects have hypomethylation, healthy unaffected subjects have hypermethylation, and nonmanifesting subjects have characteristically intermediate methylation. Thus, analysis of DNA methylation at the distal D4Z4 repeat could be used as a diagnostic indicator of developing clinical FSHD. In addition, the stability of epigenetic repression upstream of DUX4 expression is a key regulator of disease and a viable therapeutic target.
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DOI of Published Version
Clin Epigenetics. 2015 Mar 29;7(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s13148-015-0072-6. eCollection 2015. Link to article on publisher's site
Jones, Takako I.; King, Oliver D.; Himeda, Charis L.; Homma, Sachiko; Chen, Jennifer C. J.; Beermann, Mary Lou.; Yan, Chi; Emerson, Charles P. Jr.; Miller, Jeffrey B.; Wagner, Kathryn R.; and Jones, Peter L., "Individual epigenetic status of the pathogenic D4Z4 macrosatellite correlates with disease in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy" (2015). Open Access Articles. 2506.
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