Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Authors

  • Rabi Tawil MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Rochester Medical Center, Neuromuscular Disease Center, P.O. Box 673, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, New York 14642, USA
    • University of Rochester Medical Center, Neuromuscular Disease Center, P.O. Box 673, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, New York 14642, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Silvère M. Van Der Maarel PhD

    1. Leiden University Medical Center, Center for Human and Clinical Genetics, Leiden, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a dominantly inherited disorder with an initially restricted pattern of weakness. Early involvement of the facial and scapular stabilizer muscles results in a distinctive clinical presentation. Progression is descending, with subsequent involvement of either the distal anterior leg or hip-girdle muscles. There is wide variability in age at onset, disease severity, and side-to-side symmetry, which is evident even within affected members of the same family. Although FSHD is considered a relatively benign dystrophy by some, as many as 20% of patients eventually become wheelchair-bound. Associated nonskeletal muscle manifestations include high-frequency hearing loss as well as retinal telangiectasias, both of which are rarely symptomatic. The causal genetic lesion in FSHD was described over a decade ago, raising hope that knowledge about its molecular and cellular pathophysiology was soon to follow. In the vast majority of cases, FSHD results from a heterozygous partial deletion of a critical number of repetitive elements (D4Z4) on chromosome 4q35; yet, to date, no causal gene has been identified. The accumulating evidence points to a complex, perhaps unique, molecular genetic mechanism. The absence of detectable expressed sequences from D4Z4, the association of FSHD-causing 4q35 deletions with a specific distal genomic sequence (4qA allele), altered DNA methylation patterns on 4q35, as well as other direct and indirect evidence point to epigenetic mechanisms. As a consequence, partial deletion of D4Z4 results in a (local) chromatin change and ultimately results in the loss of appropriate control of gene expression. There is at present no effective treatment for FSHD. A better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology is needed to design targeted interventions. Despite these limitations, however, two randomized controlled clinical trials have been conducted on FSHD. These trials, along with a previous natural history study, have helped to better define outcome measures for future trials in FSHD as well as other dystrophies. Muscle Nerve, 2006

Ancillary