Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD) is an autosomal dominant disorder of middle age presenting as progressive dysphagia and eyelid ptosis, due to short expansions of the GCG trinucleotide repeat (from GCG6 to GCG8-13) in the polyadenylate binding-protein nuclear 1 (PABPN1) gene. OPMD is rarely seen in Asians and morphologically and/or genetically confirmed cases have been reported in Japanese kindreds only. We report a 64 year old Chinese-Malaysian woman who presented with progressive dysphagia and bilateral ptosis for about 6 years. Her mother and elder brother (both deceased) were believed to be affected. Muscle histopathology revealed angulated fibres with rimmed vacuoles. Genetic analysis showed repeat expansion in one allele to (GCG)9 while normal in the other (GCG)6. This is the first non-Japanese Asian family with genetically confirmed OPMD.
We describe four families with affected siblings showing unique clinical features: early-onset (before 1 year of age) progressive diffuse brain atrophy with regression, postnatal microcephaly, postnatal growth retardation, muscle weakness/atrophy, and respiratory failure. By whole-exome sequencing, we identified biallelic TBCD mutations in eight affected individuals from the four families. TBCD encodes TBCD (tubulin folding co-factor D), which is one of five tubulin-specific chaperones playing a pivotal role in microtubule assembly in all cells. A total of seven mutations were found: five missense mutations, one nonsense, and one splice site mutation resulting in a frameshift. In vitro cell experiments revealed the impaired binding between most mutant TBCD proteins and ARL2, TBCE, and β-tubulin. The in vivo experiments using olfactory projection neurons in Drosophila melanogaster indicated that the TBCD mutations caused loss of function. The wide range of clinical severity seen in this neurodegenerative encephalopathy may result from the residual function of mutant TBCD proteins. Furthermore, the autopsied brain from one deceased individual showed characteristic neurodegenerative findings: cactus and somatic sprout formations in the residual Purkinje cells in the cerebellum, which are also seen in some diseases associated with mitochondrial impairment. Defects of microtubule formation caused by TBCD mutations may underlie the pathomechanism of this neurodegenerative encephalopathy.
Noncoding repeat expansions cause various neuromuscular diseases, including myotonic dystrophies, fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome, some spinocerebellar ataxias, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and benign adult familial myoclonic epilepsies. Inspired by the striking similarities in the clinical and neuroimaging findings between neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease (NIID) and fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome caused by noncoding CGG repeat expansions in FMR1, we directly searched for repeat expansion mutations and identified noncoding CGG repeat expansions in NBPF19 (NOTCH2NLC) as the causative mutations for NIID. Further prompted by the similarities in the clinical and neuroimaging findings with NIID, we identified similar noncoding CGG repeat expansions in two other diseases: oculopharyngeal myopathy with leukoencephalopathy and oculopharyngodistal myopathy, in LOC642361/NUTM2B-AS1 and LRP12, respectively. These findings expand our knowledge of the clinical spectra of diseases caused by expansions of the same repeat motif, and further highlight how directly searching for expanded repeats can help identify mutations underlying diseases.