In most cases facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by contraction of the D4Z4 repeat in the 4q subtelomere. This contraction is associated with local chromatin decondensation and derepression of the DUX4 retrogene. Its complex genetic and epigenetic cause and high clinical variability in disease severity complicate investigations on the pathogenic mechanism underlying FSHD. A validated cellular model bypassing the considerable heterogeneity would facilitate mechanistic and therapeutic studies of FSHD. Taking advantage of the high incidence of somatic mosaicism for D4Z4 repeat contraction in de novo FSHD, we have established a clonal myogenic cell model from a mosaic patient. Individual clones are genetically identical except for the size of the D4Z4 repeat array, being either normal or FSHD sized. These clones retain their myogenic characteristics, and D4Z4 contracted clones differ from the noncontracted clones by the bursts of expression of DUX4 in sporadic nuclei, showing that this burst-like phenomenon is a locus-intrinsic feature. Consequently, downstream effects of DUX4 expression can be observed in D4Z4 contracted clones, like differential expression of DUX4 target genes. We also show their participation to in vivo regeneration with immunodeficient mice, further expanding the potential of these clones for mechanistic and therapeutic studies. These cell lines will facilitate pairwise comparisons to identify FSHD-specific differences and are expected to create new opportunities for high-throughput drug screens.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.