BBA - Molecular Basis of Disease (v.1852, #4)

Update on neuromuscular diseases: Pathology and molecular pathogenesis by Valerie Askanas; William King Engel (561-562).

Ageing of the neuromuscular system in elderhood ingravescently contributes to slowness, weakness, falling and death, often accompanied by numbness and pain. This article is to put in perspective examples from a half-century of personal and team neuromuscular histochemical–pathological and clinical–pathological research, including a number of lucky and instructive accomplishments identifying new treatments and new diseases. A major focus currently is on some important, still enigmatic, aspects of the ageing neuromuscular system. It is also includes some of the newest references of others on various closely-related aspects of this ageing system. The article may help guide others in their molecular-based endeavors to identify paths leading to discovering new treatments and new pathogenic aspects. These are certainly needed – our ageing and unsteady constituents are steadily increasing. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Human muscle histochemistry; Ageing muscle atrophy; Treatable diabetic neuropathy; Multicramps; IVIG treatment; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis;

Muscular dystrophies are heterogeneous genetic disorders that share progressive muscle wasting. This may generate partial impairment of motility as well as a dramatic and fatal course. Less than 30 years ago, the identification of the genetic basis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy opened a new era. An explosion of new information on the mechanisms of disease was witnessed, with many thousands of publications and the characterization of dozens of other genetic forms. Genes mutated in muscular dystrophies encode proteins of the plasma membrane and extracellular matrix, several of which are part of the dystrophin-associated complex. Other gene products localize at the sarcomere and Z band, or are nuclear membrane components.In the present review, we focus on muscular dystrophies caused by defects that affect the sarcolemmal and sub-sarcolemmal proteins. We summarize the nature of each disease, the genetic cause, and the pathogenic pathways that may suggest future treatment options. We examine X-linked Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies and the autosomal recessive limb-girdle muscular dystrophies caused by mutations in genes encoding sarcolemmal proteins. The mechanism of muscle damage is reviewed starting from disarray of the shock-absorbing dystrophin-associated complex at the sarcolemma and activation of inflammatory response up to the final stages of fibrosis. We trace only a part of the biochemical, physiopathological and clinical aspects of muscular dystrophy to avoid a lengthy list of different and conflicting observations. We attempt to provide a critical synthesis of what we consider important aspects to better understand the disease. In our opinion, it is becoming ever more important to go back to the bedside to validate and then translate each proposed mechanism. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Dystrophin; Sarcoglycan; limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; Dysferlin; Dystroglycan;

Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is the most common adult muscular dystrophy, characterized by autosomal dominant progressive myopathy, myotonia and multiorgan involvement. To date two distinct forms caused by similar mutations have been identified. Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1, Steinert's disease) is caused by a (CTG)n expansion in DMPK, while myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is caused by a (CCTG)n expansion in ZNF9/CNBP. When transcribed into CUG/CCUG-containing RNA, mutant transcripts aggregate as nuclear foci that sequester RNA-binding proteins, resulting in spliceopathy of downstream effector genes. However, it is now clear that additional pathogenic mechanism like changes in gene expression, protein translation and micro-RNA metabolism may also contribute to disease pathology. Despite clinical and genetic similarities, DM1 and DM2 are distinct disorders requiring different diagnostic and management strategies. This review is an update on the recent advances in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind myotonic dystrophies. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Myotonic dystrophy type 1; Myotonic dystrophy type 2; Clinical finding; Muscle biopsy; Molecular mechanism; Pathology;

Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy by Sabrina Sacconi; Leonardo Salviati; Claude Desnuelle (607-614).
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is characterized by a typical and asymmetric pattern of muscle involvement and disease progression. Two forms of FSHD, FSHD1 and FSHD2, have been identified displaying identical clinical phenotype but different genetic and epigenetic basis. Autosomal dominant FSHD1 (95% of patients) is characterized by chromatin relaxation induced by pathogenic contraction of a macrosatellite repeat called D4Z4 located on the 4q subtelomere (FSHD1 patients harbor 1 to 10 D4Z4 repeated units). Chromatin relaxation is associated with inappropriate expression of DUX4, a retrogene, which in muscles induces apoptosis and inflammation. Consistent with this hypothesis, individuals carrying zero repeat on chromosome 4 do not develop FSHD1. Not all D4Z4 contracted alleles cause FSHD. Distal to the last D4Z4 unit, a polymorphic site with two allelic variants has been identified: 4qA and 4qB. 4qA is in cis with a functional polyadenylation consensus site. Only contractions on 4qA alleles are pathogenic because the DUX4 transcript is polyadenylated and translated into stable protein. FSHD2 is instead a digenic disease. Chromatin relaxation of the D4Z4 locus is caused by heterozygous mutations in the SMCHD1 gene encoding a protein essential for chromatin condensation. These patients also harbor at least one 4qA allele in order to express stable DUX4 transcripts. FSHD1 and FSHD2 may have an additive effect: patients harboring D4Z4 contraction and SMCHD1 mutations display a more severe clinical phenotype than with either defect alone. Knowledge of the complex genetic and epigenetic defects causing these diseases is essential in view of designing novel therapeutic strategies. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; Subtelomeric repeat; DNA methylation; SMCHD1; Epigenetics; DUX4;

Disorders affecting the presynaptic, synaptic, and postsynaptic portions of the neuromuscular junction arise from various mechanisms in children and adults, including acquired autoimmune or toxic processes as well as genetic mutations. Disorders include autoimmune myasthenia gravis associated with acetylcholine receptor, muscle specific kinase or Lrp4 antibodies, Lambert–Eaton myasthenic syndrome, nerve terminal hyperexcitability syndromes, Guillain Barré syndrome, botulism, organophosphate poisoning and a number of congenital myasthenic syndromes. This review focuses on the various molecular and pathophysiological mechanisms of these disorders, characterization of which has been crucial to the development of treatment strategies specific for each pathogenic mechanism. In the future, further understanding of the underlying processes may lead to more effective and targeted therapies of these disorders. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Neuromuscular junction; Myasthenia gravis; Lambert–Eaton myasthenic syndrome; Botulism; Organophosphate poisoning; Congenital myasthenic syndrome;

Pathogenesis of immune-mediated neuropathies by Marinos C. Dalakas (658-666).
Autoimmune neuropathies occur when immunologic tolerance to myelin or axonal antigens is lost. Even though the triggering factors and the underling immunopathology have not been fully elucidated in all neuropathy subsets, immunological studies on the patients' nerves, transfer experiments with the patients' serum or intraneural injections, and molecular fingerprinting on circulating autoantibodies or autoreactive T cells, indicate that cellular and humoral factors, either independently or in concert with each other, play a fundamental role in their cause. The review is focused on the main subtypes of autoimmune neuropathies, mainly the Guillain–Barré syndrome(s), the Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), the Multifocal Motor Neuropathy (MMN), and the IgM anti-MAG-antibody mediated neuropathy. It addresses the factors associated with breaking tolerance, examines the T cell activation process including co-stimulatory molecules and key cytokines, and discusses the role of antibodies against peripheral nerve glycolipids or glycoproteins. Special attention is given to the newly identified proteins in the nodal, paranodal and juxtaparanodal regions as potential antigenic targets that could best explain conduction failure and rapid recovery. New biological agents against T cells, cytokines, B cells, transmigration and transduction molecules involved in their immunopathologic network, are discussed as future therapeutic options in difficult cases. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Neuropathy; Ranvier; Immunotherapy;

Inherited peripheral neuropathies, like many other degenerative disorders, have been challenging to treat. At this point, there is little specific therapy for the inherited neuropathies other than genetic counseling as well as symptomatic treatment and rehabilitation. In the past, ascorbic acid, progesterone antagonists, and subcutaneous neurotrophin-3 (NT3) injections have demonstrated improvement in animal models of CMT 1A, the most common inherited neuropathy, but have failed to translate any effect in humans. Given the difficulty in treatment, it is important to understand the molecular pathogenesis of hereditary neuropathies in order to strategize potential future therapies. The hereditary neuropathies are in an era of molecular insight and over the past 20 years, more than 78 subtypes of Charcot Marie Tooth disease (CMT) have been identified and extensively studied to understand the biological pathways in greater detail. Next generation molecular sequencing has also improved the diagnosis as well as the understanding of CMT. A greater understanding of the molecular pathways will help pave the way to future therapeutics of CMT. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: CMT; Hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy; Myelin; Molecular genetics; Molecular pathogenesis; Neuromuscular disease therapeutics;

Sporadic and hereditary amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by Senda Ajroud-Driss; Teepu Siddique (679-684).
Genetic discoveries in ALS have a significant impact on deciphering molecular mechanisms of motor neuron degeneration. The identification of SOD1 as the first genetic cause of ALS led to the engineering of the SOD1 mouse, the backbone of ALS research, and set the stage for future genetic breakthroughs. In addition, careful analysis of ALS pathology added valuable pieces to the ALS puzzle. From this joint effort, major pathogenic pathways emerged. Whereas the study of TDP43, FUS and C9ORF72 pointed to the possible involvement of RNA biology in motor neuron survival, recent work on P62 and UBQLN2 refocused research on protein degradation pathways. Despite all these efforts, the etiology of most cases of sporadic ALS remains elusive. Newly acquired genomic tools now allow the identification of genetic and epigenetic factors that can either increase ALS risk or modulate disease phenotype. These developments will certainly allow for better disease modeling to identify novel therapeutic targets for ALS. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: Sporadic ALS; Familial ALS; Paradigm shift; Pathogenesis;

Molecular mechanisms and animal models of spinal muscular atrophy by Brittany M. Edens; Senda Ajroud-Driss; Long Ma; Yong-Chao Ma (685-692).
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the leading genetic cause of infant mortality, is characterized by the degeneration of spinal motor neurons and muscle atrophy. Although the genetic cause of SMA has been mapped to the Survival Motor Neuron1 (SMN1) gene, mechanisms underlying selective motor neuron degeneration in SMA remain largely unknown. Here we review the latest developments and our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying SMA pathogenesis, focusing on the animal model systems that have been developed, as well as new diagnostic and treatment strategies that have been identified using these model systems. This article is part of a special issue entitled: Neuromuscular Diseases: Pathology and Molecular Pathogenesis.
Keywords: SMA; SMN; Animal disease models; C. elegans; Drosophila; Zebrafish;