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Patients with a phenotype consistent with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy display genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity
  1. Sabrina Sacconi1,
  2. Pilar Camaño2,
  3. Jessica C de Greef3,4,
  4. Richard J L F Lemmers3,
  5. Leonardo Salviati5,
  6. Pascal Boileau6,
  7. Adolfo Lopez de Munain Arregui2,7,
  8. Silvère M van der Maarel3,
  9. Claude Desnuelle1
  1. 1Centre de référence des Maladies neuromusculaires and CNRS UMR6543, Nice University Hospital. Nice, France
  2. 2Department of Neurosciences, BioDonostia Health Research Institute, Donostia Hospital, 20014 San Sebastián, Spain and CIBERNED, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3Department of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands
  4. 4Current address: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  5. 5Clinical Genetics Unit, Department of Pediatrics, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  6. 6Department of Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Traumatology, Archet 2 Hospital, Nice University Hospital, Nice, France
  7. 7Department of Neurology, Hospital Donostia, 20014 San Sebastián, Spain and Centro de Investiagación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas, CIBERNED, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sabrina Sacconi, Centre de référence des maladies neuromusculaires, Archet 1 Hospital, 151 Route de Saint Antoine de Ginestière, 06000 Nice, France; sacconi{at}


Objective To identify the genetic and epigenetic defects in patients presenting with a facioscapulohumeral (FSHD) clinical phenotype without D4Z4 contractions on chromosome 4q35 tested by linear gel electrophoresis and Southern blot analysis.

Design and patients The authors studied 16 patients displaying an FSHD-like phenotype, with normal cardiovascular and respiratory function, a myopathic pattern on electromyography, and a muscle biopsy being normal or displaying only mild and aspecific dystrophic changes. They sequenced the genes calpain 3 (CAPN3), valosin containing protein (VCP) and four-and-a-half LIM domains protein 1 (FHL1), and they analysed the D4Z4 repeat arrays by extensive genotyping and DNA methylation analysis.

Results The authors identified one patient carrying a complex rearrangement in the FSHD locus that masked the D4Z4 contraction associated with FSHD1 in standard genetic testing, one patient with somatic mosaicism for the D4Z4 4q35 contraction, six patients that were diagnosed as having FSHD2, four patients with CAPN3 mutations and two patients with a VCP mutation, No mutations were detected in FHL1, and in two patients, the authors could not identify the genetic defect.

Conclusions In patients presenting with an FSHD-like clinical phenotype with a negative molecular testing for FSHD, consider (1) detailed genetic testing including D4Z4 contraction of permissive hybrid D4Z4 repeat arrays, p13E-11 probe deletions, and D4Z4 hypomethylation in the absence of repeat contraction as observed in FSHD2; (2) mutations in CAPN3 even in the absence of protein deficiency on western blot analysis; and (3) VCP mutations even in the absence of cognitive impairment, Paget disease and typical inclusion in muscle biopsy.

  • Neuromuscular disease
  • muscle disease
  • neurology
  • genetics
  • epigenetics
  • academic medicine
  • neurosciences
  • molecular genetics
  • immunology (including allergy)
  • other endocrinology
  • drugs: endocrine system
  • metabolic disorders
  • clinical genetics

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  • Funding Pilar Camaño and Adolfo Lopez de Munain Arregui are funded by the Centro Investigación Biomédica en Red para Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas (CIBERNED), the Basque government (Fellowship grant, No. 2008111011), the Instituto Carlos III, ILUNDAIN Fundazioa, the Prinses Beatrix Fonds, the Fields Center for FSHD and Neuromuscular Diseases, and the National Institutes of Health (P01NS069539, AR059966) to take care of clinical evaluation and molecular studies (VCP and CAPN3 gene).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This is a retrospective study which involved the standard diagnostic procedures for patients with myopathy. All procedures (biopsies, genetic tests, photographs, etc) were performed with the written informed consent of the patients.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.