Differential DNA methylation of the D4Z4 repeat in patients with FSHD and asymptomatic carriers

Neurology. 2014 Aug 19;83(8):733-42. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000708. Epub 2014 Jul 16.


Objective: We investigated the link between DNA hypomethylation and clinical penetrance in facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) because hypomethylation is moderate and heterogeneous in patients and could not thus far be correlated with disease presence or severity.

Methods: To investigate the link between clinical signs of FSHD and DNA methylation, we explored 95 cases (37 FSHD1, 29 asymptomatic individuals carrying a shortened D4Z4 array, 9 patients with FSHD2, and 20 controls) by implementing 2 approaches: methylated DNA immunoprecipitation and sodium bisulfite sequencing.

Results: Both methods revealed statistically significant differences between asymptomatic carriers or controls and individuals with clinical FSHD, especially in the proximal region of the repeat. Absence of clinical expression in asymptomatic carriers is associated with a level of methylation similar to controls.

Conclusions: We provide a proof of concept that the targeted approaches that we describe could be applied systematically to patient samples in routine diagnosis and suggest that local hypomethylation within D4Z4 might serve as a modifier for clinical expression of FSHD phenotype.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class III evidence that assays for hypomethylation within the D4Z4 region accurately distinguish patients with FSHD from individuals with D4Z4 contraction without FSHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 4*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Testing
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / diagnosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / genetics*
  • Pedigree
  • Penetrance
  • Phenotype
  • Young Adult