Rare ACTN2 Frameshift Variants Resulting in Protein Extension Cause Distal Myopathy and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy through Protein Aggregation

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 17:2024.01.17.23298671. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.17.23298671.


Distal myopathies are a group of rare, inherited muscular disorders characterized by progressive loss of muscle fibers that begins in the distal parts of arms and legs. Recently, variants in a new disease gene, ACTN2 , have been shown to cause distal myopathy. ACTN2 , a gene previously only associated with cardiomyopathies, encodes alpha-actinin-2, a protein expressed in both cardiac and skeletal sarcomeres. The primary function of alpha-actinin-2 is to link actin and titin to the sarcomere Z-disk. New ACTN2 variants are continuously discovered, however, the clinical significance of many variants remains unknown. Thus, lack of clear genotype-phenotype correlations in ACTN2 -related diseases, actininopathies, persists.

Objective: The objective of the study is to characterize the pathomechanisms underlying actininopathies.

Methods: Functional characterization in C2C12 cell models of several ACTN2 variants is conducted, including frameshift and missense variants associated with dominant actininopathies. We assess the genotype-phenotype correlations of actininopathies using clinical data from several patients carrying these variants.

Results: The results show that the missense variants associated with a recessive form of actininopathy do not cause detectable alpha-actinin-2 aggregates in the cell model. Conversely, dominant frameshift variants causing a protein extension do produce alpha-actinin-2 aggregates.

Interpretation: The results suggest that alpha-actinin-2 aggregation is the disease mechanism underlying some dominant actininopathies, and thus we recommend that protein-extending frameshift variants in ACTN2 should be classified as pathogenic. However, this mechanism is likely elicited by only a limited number of variants. Alternative functional characterization methods should be explored to further investigate other molecular mechanisms underlying actininopathies.

Publication types

  • Preprint