CTG-repeat length in distal and proximal leg muscles of symptomatic and non-symptomatic patients with myotonic dystrophy: relation to muscle strength and degree of histopathological abnormalities


T. Ansved at Department of Neurology, Karolinska Hospital, S-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden


Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is an autosomal dominant, multisystemic disorder with a variable phenotypic expression including muscle weakness and myotonia. The muscle wasting is most marked in distal limbs and in facial and neck muscles, although proximal limb muscles become affected as the disease progresses. The CTG-trinucleotide-repeat expansion associated with myotonic dystrophy is usually larger in muscle tissue than in leukocytes. It is unclear whether the repeat length itself bears any relation to the differences in the degree of weakness and atrophy between different muscles. We therefore analysed CTG-repeat lengths in blood and in proximal (m. vastus lateralis) and distal (m. tibialis anterior) muscles of patients with DM (n= 4) and non-symptomatic carriers of the mutant DM allele (n= 2) using conventional Southern blot hybridization. Muscle strength and histopathological abnormalities were evaluated for each muscle. In patients with clinical symptoms, the degree of paresis and morphological abnormalities was markedly more pronounced in m. tibialis anterior than in m. vastus lateralis. In these individuals, the CTG-repeat length was larger in muscles than in leukocytes, whereas in the two non-symptomatic carriers no difference could be detected. Furthermore, there was no clear difference in the repeat length between the two muscles in any of the patients. In conclusion, the selective muscular weakness and atrophy in DM do not seem to be related to differences in CTG-repeat length between different muscles.