Background: Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is characterized by a variable degree of myocardial hypertrophy and a wide range of symptoms. Different mutations in the beta cardiac myosin heavy-chain gene have been identified in three affected families. However, neither the proportion of cases attributable to myosin mutations nor the effects of different mutations on clinical outcome are known.
Methods: Using a ribonuclease protection assay, we screened the beta cardiac myosin heavy-chain genes of probands from 25 unrelated families with familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; this assay is a sensitive method for detecting the presence and location of mutations. We further defined the mutations by analyzing their nucleotide sequences. The clinical features of the disease were compared in families with various myosin mutations.
Results: Seven mutations in the beta cardiac myosin heavy-chain gene were identified in 12 of the 25 families. All were missense mutations (i.e., causing the substitution of a single amino acid) clustered in the head and head-rod junction regions of the molecule. Six mutations resulted in a change in the charge of the amino acid. Patients with mutations that changed the charge of the altered amino acid (such as that from arginine to glutamine at nucleotide 403 or from arginine to cysteine at nucleotide 453) had a significantly shorter life expectancy (mean age at death, 33 years), whereas patients with the one mutation that did not produce a change in charge (Val606Met) had nearly normal survival. However, patients with different mutations did not differ appreciably in their clinical manifestations of familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Conclusions: Different missense mutations in the beta cardiac myosin heavy-chain gene can be identified in approximately 50 percent of families with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In those families, a definite genetic diagnosis can be made in all members. Since the location of a mutation or its DNA-sequence alteration (or both) appears to influence survival, we suggest that the precise definition of the disease-causing mutation can provide important prognostic information about affected members.