Patho-Genetic Characterization of the Muscular Dystrophy Gene Myotilin


Myotilin is a muscle-specific Z-disc protein with putative roles in myofibril assembly and structural upkeep of the sarcomere. Several myotilin point mutations have been described in patients with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy Type 1A (LGMD1A), myofibrillar myopathy (MFM), spheroid body myopathy (SBM), and distal myopathy, four similar adult-onset, progressive, and autosomal dominant muscular dystrophies--collectively called the myotilinopathies. It is not yet known how myotilin mutations cause muscle disease.

To investigate myotilin's role in the pathogenesis of muscle disease, I have created and characterized transgenic mice expressing mutant (Thr57Ile) myotilin under the control of the human skeletal alpha-actin promoter. Like LGMD1A and MFM patients, these mice develop progressive myofibrillar pathology that includes Z-disc streaming, excess myofibrillar vacuolization, and plaque-like myofibrillar aggregation. These aggregates become progressively larger and more numerous with age. I show that the mutant myotilin protein properly localizes to the Z-disc, and also heavily populates the aggregates, along with several other Z-disc associated proteins. Whole muscle physiological analysis reveals that the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle of transgenic mice exhibits significantly reduced maximum specific isometric force compared to littermate controls. Intriguingly, the soleus and diaphragm muscles are spared of any abnormal myopathology and show no reductions in maximum specific force. These data provide evidence that myotilin mutations promote aggregate-dependent contractile dysfunction.

To better understand myotilin function, I also created two separate lines of myotilin domain deletion transgenic mice: one expresses a deletion of the N-terminal domain and the second expresses a deletion of the minimal alpha-actinin binding site. Studies in these mice show that 1) the N-terminal domain of myotilin may be required for normal localization to the Z-disc; 2) interaction with alpha-actinin is not required for localization of myotilin to the Z-disc; and 3) deletion of the alpha-actinin binding site causes an aggregation phenotype similar to that of the TgT57I mouse and myotilinopathy patients.

In sum, I have established a promising patho-physiological mouse model that unifies the diverse clinical phenotypes of the myotilinopathies. This mouse model promises to be a key resource for understanding myotilin function, unraveling LGMD1A pathogenesis, and investigating therapeutics.





Garvey, Sean Michael (2007). Patho-Genetic Characterization of the Muscular Dystrophy Gene Myotilin. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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