Genetic and Epigenetic Characteristics of FSHD-Associated 4q and 10q D4Z4 that are Distinct from Non-4q/10q D4Z4 Homologs
Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) is one of the most prevalent muscular dystrophies. The majority of FSHD cases are linked to a decreased copy number of D4Z4 macrosatellite repeats on chromosome 4q (FSHD1). Less than 5% of FSHD cases have no repeat contraction (FSHD2), most of which are associated with mutations of SMCHD1. FSHD is associated with the transcriptional derepression of DUX4 encoded within the D4Z4 repeat, and SMCHD1 contributes to its regulation. We previously found that the loss of heterochromatin mark (i.e. histone H3 lysine 9 tri-methylation (H3K9me3)) at D4Z4 is a hallmark of both FSHD1 and FSHD2. However, whether this loss contributes to DUX4 expression was unknown. Furthermore, additional D4Z4 homologs exist on multiple chromosomes, but they are largely uncharacterized and their relationship to 4q/10q D4Z4 was undetermined. We found that the suppression of H3K9me3 results in displacement of SMCHD1 at D4Z4 and increases DUX4 expression in myoblasts. The DUX4 open reading frame (ORF) is disrupted in D4Z4 homologs and their heterochromatin is unchanged in FSHD. The results indicate the significance of D4Z4 heterochromatin in DUX4 gene regulation and reveal the genetic and epigenetic distinction between 4q/10q D4Z4 and the non-4q/10q homologs, highlighting the special role of the 4q/10q D4Z4 chromatin and the DUX4 ORF in FSHD. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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ABSTRACT: Significance: Aberrant epigenetic regulation is an integral aspect of many diseases and complex disorders. Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a progressive myopathy that afflicts individuals of all ages, is caused by disrupted genetic and epigenetic regulation of a macrosatellite repeat. FSHD provides a powerful model to investigate disease-relevant epigenetic modifiers and general mechanisms of epigenetic regulation that govern gene expression. Recent advances: In the context of a genetically permissive allele, the one aspect of FSHD that is consistent across all known cases is the aberrant epigenetic state of the disease locus. In addition, certain mutations in the chromatin regulator SMCHD1 (structural maintenance of chromosomes hinge-domain protein 1) are sufficient to cause FSHD2 and enhance disease severity in FSHD1. Thus, there are multiple pathways to generate the epigenetic dysregulation required for FSHD. Critical issues: Why do some individuals with the genetic requirements for FSHD develop disease pathology, while others remain asymptomatic? Similarly, disease progression is highly variable among individuals. What are the relative contributions of genetic background and environmental factors in determining disease manifestation, progression, and severity in FSHD? What is the interplay between epigenetic factors regulating the disease locus and which, if any, are viable therapeutic targets? Future directions: Epigenetic regulation represents a potentially powerful therapeutic target for FSHD. Determining the epigenetic signatures that are predictive of disease severity and identifying the spectrum of disease modifiers in FSHD are vital to the development of effective therapies.
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ABSTRACT: Background Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is linked to chromatin relaxation due to epigenetic changes at the 4q35 D4Z4 macrosatellite array. Molecular diagnostic criteria for FSHD are complex and involve analysis of high molecular weight (HMW) genomic DNA isolated from lymphocytes, followed by multiple restriction digestions, pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and Southern blotting. A subject is genetically diagnosed as FSHD1 if one of the 4q alleles shows a contraction in the D4Z4 array to below 11 repeats, while maintaining at least 1 repeat, and the contraction is in cis with a disease-permissive A-type subtelomere. FSHD2 is contraction-independent and cannot be diagnosed or excluded by this common genetic diagnostic procedure. However, FSHD1 and FSHD2 are linked by epigenetic deregulation, assayed as DNA hypomethylation, of the D4Z4 array on FSHD-permissive alleles. We have developed a PCR-based assay that identifies the epigenetic signature for both types of FSHD, distinguishing FSHD1 from FSHD2, and can be performed on genomic DNA isolated from blood, saliva, or cultured cells. Results Samples were obtained from healthy controls or patients clinically diagnosed with FSHD, and include both FSHD1 and FSHD2. The genomic DNAs were subjected to bisulfite sequencing analysis for the distal 4q D4Z4 repeat with an A-type subtelomere and the DUX4 5’ promoter region. We compared genomic DNA isolated from saliva and blood from the same individuals and found similar epigenetic signatures. DNA hypomethylation was restricted to the contracted 4qA chromosome in FSHD1 patients while healthy control subjects were hypermethylated. Candidates for FSHD2 showed extreme DNA hypomethylation on the 4qA DUX4 gene body as well as all analyzed DUX4 5’ sequences. Importantly, our assay does not amplify the D4Z4 arrays with non-permissive B-type subtelomeres and accurately excludes the arrays with non-permissive A-type subtelomeres. Conclusions We have developed an assay to identify changes in DNA methylation on the pathogenic distal 4q D4Z4 repeat. We show that the DNA methylation profile of saliva reflects FSHD status. This assay can distinguish FSHD from healthy controls, differentiate FSHD1 from FSHD2, does not require HMW genomic DNA or PFGE, and can be performed on either cultured cells, tissue, blood, or saliva samples. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1868-7083-6-23) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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ABSTRACT: 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. 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. 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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