Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 4B2 demyelinating neuropathy in miniature Schnauzer dogs caused by a novel splicing SBF2 (MTMR13) genetic variant: a new spontaneous clinical model

PeerJ. 2019 Nov 21;7:e7983. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7983. eCollection 2019.


Background: Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is the most common neuromuscular disorder in humans affecting 40 out of 100,000 individuals. In 2008, we described the clinical, electrophysiological and pathological findings of a demyelinating motor and sensory neuropathy in Miniature Schnauzer dogs, with a suspected autosomal recessive mode of inheritance based on pedigree analysis. The discovery of additional cases has followed this work and led to a genome-wide association mapping approach to search for the underlying genetic cause of the disease.

Methods: For genome wide association screening, genomic DNA samples from affected and unaffected dogs were genotyped using the Illumina CanineHD SNP genotyping array. SBF2 and its variant were sequenced using primers and PCRs. RNA was extracted from muscle of an unaffected and an affected dog and RT-PCR performed. Immunohistochemistry for myelin basic protein was performed on peripheral nerve section specimens.

Results: The genome-wide association study gave an indicative signal on canine chromosome 21. Although the signal was not of genome-wide significance due to the small number of cases, the SBF2 (also known as MTMR13) gene within the region of shared case homozygosity was a strong positional candidate, as 22 genetic variants in the gene have been associated with demyelinating forms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease in humans. Sequencing of SBF2 in cases revealed a splice donor site genetic variant, resulting in cryptic splicing and predicted early termination of the protein based on RNA sequencing results.

Conclusions: This study reports the first genetic variant in Miniature Schnauzer dogs responsible for the occurrence of a demyelinating peripheral neuropathy with abnormally folded myelin. This discovery establishes a genotype/phenotype correlation in affected Miniature Schnauzers that can be used for the diagnosis of these dogs. It further supports the dog as a natural model of a human disease; in this instance, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It opens avenues to search the biological mechanisms responsible for the disease and to test new therapies in a non-rodent large animal model. In particular, recent gene editing methods that led to the restoration of dystrophin expression in a canine model of muscular dystrophy could be applied to other canine models such as this before translation to humans.

Keywords: Animal model; Canine; Charcot-Marie-Tooth diseases; Demyelinating neuropathy; Genetic variant; Genome wide association screen; Inherited polyneuropathy; Myotubularine related proteins; SET-binding factor 2; Spontaneous disease.