Methylation of the FSHD syndrome-linked subtelomeric repeat in normal and FSHD cell cultures and tissues.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) has an unusual molecular etiology. In a putatively heterochromatic subtelomeric region of each chromosome 4 homologue (4q35), unaffected individuals have 11 to about 95 tandem copies of a complex 3.3-kb repeat (D4Z4). Most FSHD patients have less than 10 copies at one allelic 4q35. This has been proposed to lead to the loss of heterochromatinization and, thereby, inappropriate gene expression by position effects, explaining the dominant nature of FSHD and the role of a decreased number of copies of D4Z4 at 4q35 but not at 10q26. Consistent with the proposed heterochromatinization of this repeat, by Southern blot analysis, we found that SmaI, MluI, SacII, and EagI sites in D4Z4 are highly methylated in normal and FSHD cell lines and somatic tissues, including skeletal muscle. Like repeated DNA sequences in the juxtacentromeric heterochromatin of chromosomes 1, 9, and 16, D4Z4 was hypomethylated at numerous CpGs in sperm and in cell lines from patients with an unrelated DNA methyltransferase deficiency syndrome (ICF; immunodeficiency, centromeric region instability, facial anomalies) in contrast to its hypermethylation in non-ICF postnatal somatic tissues. Our data on FSHD samples suggest that the disease-associated 4q35 D4Z4 repeats, which constitute a small percentage of the total D4Z4 repeats, are not generally hypomethylated relative to the other repeats of this sequence. However, in individuals not affected with FSHD, the hypermethylation of tandem, high-copy-number D4Z4 repeats might help stabilize heterochromatinization at allelic 4q35 regions just as hypermethylation elsewhere in the genome has been linked to chromatin compaction.
Tsien, F; Sun, B; Hopkins, NE; Vedanarayanan, V; Figlewicz, D; Winokur, S; Ehrlich, M
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