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DUX4-expressing immortalised FSHD lymphoblastoid cells express genes elevated in FSHD muscle biopsies, correlating with the early stages of inflammation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Accepted/In press9 Mar 2020


King's Authors


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is an incurable disorder linked to ectopic expression of DUX4. However, DUX4 is notoriously difficult to detect in FSHD muscle cells, while DUX4 target gene expression is an inconsistent biomarker for FSHD skeletal muscle biopsies, displaying efficacy only on pathologically inflamed samples. Immune gene misregulation occurs in FSHD muscle, with DUX4 target genes enriched for those associated with inflammatory processes. However, there lacks an assessment of the FSHD immune cell transcriptome, and its contribution to gene expression in FSHD muscle biopsies. Here we show that EBV-immortalised FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines express DUX4 and both early and late DUX4 target genes. Moreover, a biomarker of 237 up-regulated genes derived from FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines is elevated in FSHD muscle biopsies compared to controls. The FSHD Lymphoblast score is unaltered between FSHD myoblasts/myotubes and their controls though, implying a non-myogenic cell source in muscle biopsies. Indeed, the FSHD Lymphoblast score correlates with the early stages of muscle inflammation identified by histological analysis on muscle biopsies, while our two late DUX4 target gene expression biomarkers associate with macroscopic inflammation detectable via MRI. Thus FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines express DUX4 and some early and late DUX4 target genes and so muscle-infiltrated immune cells may contribute the molecular landscape of FSHD muscle biopsies.

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