Analysis of allele-specific RNA transcription in FSHD by RNA-DNA FISH in single myonuclei

Eur J Hum Genet. 2010 Apr;18(4):448-56. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.183. Epub 2009 Nov 4.


Autosomal dominant facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is likely caused by epigenetic alterations in chromatin involving contraction of the D4Z4 repeat array near the telomere of chromosome 4q. The precise mechanism by which deletions of D4Z4 influence gene expression in FSHD is not yet resolved. Regulatory models include a cis effect on proximal gene transcription (position effect), DNA looping, non-coding RNA, nuclear localization and trans-effects. To directly test whether deletions of D4Z4 affect gene expression in cis, nascent RNA was examined in single myonuclei so that transcription from each allele could be measured independently. FSHD and control myotubes (differentiated myoblasts) were subjected to sequential RNA-DNA FISH. A total of 16 genes in the FSHD region (FRG2, TUBB4Q, FRG1, FAT1, F11, KLKB1, CYP4V2, TLR3, SORBS2, PDLIM3 (ALP), LRP2BP, ING2, SNX25, SLC25A4 (ANT1), HELT and IRF2) were examined for interallelic variation in RNA expression within individual myonuclei. Sequential DNA hybridization with a unique 4q35 chromosome probe was then applied to confirm the localization of nascent RNA to 4q. A D4Z4 probe, labeled with a third fluorochrome, distinguished between the deleted and normal allele in FSHD nuclei. Our data do not support an FSHD model in which contracted D4Z4 arrays induce altered transcription in cis from 4q35 genes, even for those genes (FRG1, FRG2 and SLC25A4 (ANT1)) for which such an effect has been proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 4 / genetics
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / genetics*
  • Myoblasts / cytology
  • Myoblasts / metabolism
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Chromatin
  • RNA
  • DNA