Background: Pathogenic variants in the TPM3 gene, encoding slow skeletal muscle α-tropomyosin account for less than 5% of nemaline myopathy cases. Dominantly inherited or de novo missense variants in TPM3 are more common than recessive loss-of-function variants. The recessive variants reported to date seem to affect either the 5' or the 3' end of the skeletal muscle-specific TPM3 transcript.
Objectives: The aim of the study was to identify the disease-causing gene and variants in a Finnish patient with an unusual form of nemaline myopathy.
Methods: The genetic analyses included Sanger sequencing, whole-exome sequencing, targeted array-CGH, and linked-read whole genome sequencing. RNA sequencing was done on total RNA extracted from cultured myoblasts and myotubes of the patient and controls. TPM3 protein expression was assessed by Western blot analysis. The diagnostic muscle biopsy was analyzed by routine histopathological methods.
Results: The patient had poor head control and failure to thrive, but no hypomimia, and his upper limbs were clearly weaker than his lower limbs, features which in combination with the histopathology suggested TPM3-caused nemaline myopathy. Muscle histopathology showed increased fiber size variation and numerous nemaline bodies predominantly in small type 1 fibers. The patient was found to be compound heterozygous for two splice-site variants in intron 1a of TPM3: NM_152263.4:c.117+2_5delTAGG, deleting the donor splice site of intron 1a, and NM_152263.4:c.117 + 164 C>T, which activates an acceptor splice site preceding a non-coding exon in intron 1a. RNA sequencing revealed inclusion of intron 1a and the non-coding exon in the transcripts, resulting in early premature stop codons. Western blot using patient myoblasts revealed markedly reduced levels of the TPM3 protein.
Conclusions: Novel biallelic splice-site variants were shown to markedly reduce TPM3 protein expression. The effects of the variants on splicing were readily revealed by RNA sequencing, demonstrating the power of the method.
Keywords: NMD-CGH array; Nemaline myopathy; RNA sequencing; TPM3; alpha-tropomyosin; linked-read sequencing.