Dominant mutations in TPM3, encoding α-tropomyosinslow, cause a congenital myopathy characterized by generalized muscle weakness. Here, we used a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the mechanism of muscle dysfunction in 12 TPM3-myopathy patients. We confirm that slow myofibre hypotrophy is a diagnostic hallmark of TPM3-myopathy, and is commonly accompanied by skewing of fibre-type ratios (either slow or fast fibre predominance). Patient muscle contained normal ratios of the three tropomyosin isoforms and normal fibre-type expression of myosins and troponins. Using 2D-PAGE, we demonstrate that mutant α-tropomyosinslow was expressed, suggesting muscle dysfunction is due to a dominant-negative effect of mutant protein on muscle contraction. Molecular modelling suggested mutant α-tropomyosinslow likely impacts actin-tropomyosin interactions and, indeed, co-sedimentation assays showed reduced binding of mutant α-tropomyosinslow (R168C) to filamentous actin. Single fibre contractility studies of patient myofibres revealed marked slow myofibre specific abnormalities. At saturating [Ca(2+)] (pCa 4.5), patient slow fibres produced only 63% of the contractile force produced in control slow fibres and had reduced acto-myosin cross-bridge cycling kinetics. Importantly, due to reduced Ca(2+)-sensitivity, at sub-saturating [Ca(2+)] (pCa 6, levels typically released during in vivo contraction) patient slow fibres produced only 26% of the force generated by control slow fibres. Thus, weakness in TPM3-myopathy patients can be directly attributed to reduced slow fibre force at physiological [Ca(2+)], and impaired acto-myosin cross-bridge cycling kinetics. Fast myofibres are spared; however, they appear to be unable to compensate for slow fibre dysfunction. Abnormal Ca(2+)-sensitivity in TPM3-myopathy patients suggests Ca(2+)-sensitizing drugs may represent a useful treatment for this condition.
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