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Skeletal muscle features in myotonic dystrophy and sarcopenia: do similar nuclear mechanisms lead to skeletal muscle wasting?

DOI: 10.4081/ejh.2012.e36

Keywords: cell nucleus , myotonic dystrophy , sarcopenia

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In the cell nucleus, the gene primary transcripts undergo molecular processing to generate mature RNAs, which are finally exported to the cytoplasm. These mRNA maturation events are chronologically and spatially ordered, and mostly occur on distinct ribonucleoprotein (RNP)-containing structures. Defects in the mRNA maturation pathways have been demonstrated in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) and type 2 (DM2) whose characteristic multisystemic features are caused by the expansion of two distinct nucleotide sequences: (CTG)n in the DMPK gene on chromosome 19q13 in DM1, and (CCTG)n in the ZNF9 gene on chromosome 3q21 in DM2. By combining biomolecular and cytochemical techniques, it has been shown that the basic mechanisms of DMs reside in the accumulation of CUG- or CCUG-containing transcripts in intranuclear foci where several RNA-binding proteins necessary for the physiological processing of pre-mRNA are sequestered. Moreover, a nucleoplasmic accumulation of splicing and cleavage factors has been found in DMs. This suggests that the dystrophic phenotype could depend on a general alteration of the pre-mRNA post-transcriptional pathway. Interestingly, the accumulation of pre-mRNA processing factors in the myonuclei of DM1 and DM2 patients is reminiscent of the nuclear alterations typical of sarcopenia, i.e., the loss of muscle mass and function which physiologically occurs during ageing. Consistently, in an in vitro study, we observed that satellite-cell-derived DM2 myoblasts show cell senescence alterations and impairment of the pre-mRNA maturation pathways earlier than the myoblasts from healthy patient. These results suggest possible common cellular mechanisms responsible for skeletal muscle wasting in sarcopenia and in myotonic dystrophy.


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