Disease severity in dominant Emery Dreifuss is increased by mutations in both emerin and desmin proteins

F Muntoni, G Bonne, L G Goldfarb, E Mercuri, R J Piercy, M Burke, R Ben Yaou, P Richard, D Récan, A Shatunov, C A Sewry, S C Brown

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97 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals with the same genetic disorder often show remarkable differences in clinical severity, a finding generally attributed to the genetic background. We identified two patients with genetically proven Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) who followed an unusual course and had uncommon clinicopathological findings. We hypothesized digenic inheritance and looked for additional molecular explanations. Mutations in additional separate genes were identified in both patients. The first patient was a member of a family with molecularly proven X-linked EDMD. However, the clinical features were unusually severe for this condition in the propositus: he presented at 2.5 years with severe proximal weakness and markedly elevated serum creatine kinase. Muscle weakness rapidly progressed, leading to loss of independent ambulation by the age of 12. In addition, the patient developed cardiac conduction system disease requiring pacing at the age of 11 and severe dilated cardiomyopathy in the early teens. Despite pacing, he had several syncopal episodes attributed to ventricular dysrhythmias. As these resemble the cardiac features of patients with the autosomal dominant variant of EDMD, we examined the lamin A/C gene, identifying a de-novo mutation in the propositus. The second patient had a cardioskeletal myopathy, similar to his mother who had died more than 20 years previously. Because of the dominant family history, a laminopathy was suspected and a mutation in exon 11 of the LMNA gene was identified. This mutation, however, was not present in his mother, but instead, surprisingly, was identified in his virtually asymptomatic father. Unusual accumulations of desmin found in the cardiac muscle of the propositus prompted us to examine the desmin gene in this patient, and in so doing, we identified a desmin mutation, in addition to the LMNA mutation in the propositus. These cases suggest that separate mutations in related proteins that are believed to interact, or that represent different parts of a presumed functional pathway, may synergistically contribute to disease severity in autosomal dominant EDMD. Furthermore, digenic inheritance may well contribute to the clinical severity of many other neuromuscular disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1260-8
Number of pages9
JournalBrain : a journal of neurology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated
  • Child, Preschool
  • Desmin
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laminin
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Emery-Dreifuss
  • Mutation
  • Myocardium
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Pedigree
  • Thymopoietins
  • Case Reports
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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