Progression of somatic CTG repeat length heterogeneity in the blood cells of myotonic dystrophy patients

Hum Mol Genet. 1998 Feb;7(2):307-12. doi: 10.1093/hmg/7.2.307.


The genetic basis of myotonic dystrophy (DM) is the expansion of an unstable CTG repeat in the 34 UTR of the DM protein kinase gene on chromosome 19. One of the principal features of the DM mutation is an extraordinarily high level of somatic mosaicism, due to an extremely high degree of somatic instability both within and between different tissues. This instability appears to be biased towards further expansion and continuous throughout the life of an individual, features that could be associated with the progressive nature of the disease. Although increasing measured allele size between patients clearly correlates with an increased severity of symptoms and an earlier age of onset, this correlation is not precise and measured allele length cannot be used as an accurate predictor of age of onset. In order to further characterize the dynamics of DM CTG repeat somatic instability, we have studied repeat length changes over time in 111 myotonic dystrophy patients with varying clinical severity and CTG repeat size over time intervals of 1-7 years. We have found a direct progression of the size heterogeneity over time related to initial CTG repeat size and the time interval and always biased towards further expansion. Attempts to mathematically model the dynamics have proved only partially successful suggesting that individual specific genetic and/or environmental factors also play a role in somatic mosaicism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alleles
  • Child
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19 / genetics*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukocytes / chemistry*
  • Mosaicism*
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / blood
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / epidemiology
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / genetics*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Time Factors
  • Trinucleotide Repeats*