Mutations in the skeletal muscle ryanodine receptor (RYR1) gene are a common cause of neuromuscular disease, ranging from various congenital myopathies to the malignant hyperthermia (MH) susceptibility trait without associated weakness. We sequenced RYR1 in 39 unrelated families with rhabdomyolysis and/or exertional myalgia, frequent presentations in the neuromuscular clinic that often remain unexplained despite extensive investigations. We identified 9 heterozygous RYR1 mutations/variants in 14 families, 5 of them (p.Lys1393Arg; p.Gly2434Arg; p.Thr4288_Ala4290dup; p.Ala4295Val; and p.Arg4737Gln) previously associated with MH. Index cases presented from 3 to 45 years with rhabdomyolysis, with or without exertional myalgia (n=12), or isolated exertional myalgia (n=2). Rhabdomyolysis was commonly triggered by exercise and heat and, less frequently, viral infections, alcohol and drugs. Most cases were normally strong and had no personal MH history. Inconsistent additional features included heat intolerance, and cold-induced muscle stiffness. Muscle biopsies showed mainly subtle changes. Familial RYR1 mutations were confirmed in relatives with similar or no symptoms. These findings suggest that RYR1 mutations may account for a substantial proportion of patients presenting with unexplained rhabdomyolysis and/or exertional myalgia. Associated clinico-pathological features may be subtle and require a high degree of suspicion. Additional family studies are paramount in order to identify potentially MH susceptible relatives.
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