Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) Is one of the most common adult muscular dystrophies. Deletion of a subset of subtelomeric macrosatellite repeats (D4Z4 repeats) causes most cases of FSHD and results in a dominantly inherited disease. Recent work from our groups have shown a decrease of repressive epigenetic markings on the deleted allele, increased binding of regulatory factors to the deleted allele, and a complex set of coding and non-coding RNAs generated from the D4Z4 repeats. These findings strongly support a broad hypothesis for the pathophysiology of FSHD: loss of epigenetic silencing in the D4Z4 repeat leads to increased expression of an RNA species that causes the disease, either through an RNA or protein mediated mechanism. Our research groups will address specific and complementary aims that together will both test the broad hypothesis and identify the specific mechanism(s) of FSHD, which is critical for future therapy development.
The aims of Project 1 (Dr. van der Maarel) will identify the DNA sequences and epigenetic changes specific to 4qA161 that are necessary to confer FSHD pathology.
The aims of Project 2 (Dr. Tapscott) will determine whether the D4Z4-generated coding and non-coding RNAs have a role in FSHD pathology and identify mechanisms of generally suppressing transcription from the D4Z4 repeat region.
The aims of Project 3 (Dr. Filippova) will be to determine whether CTCF binding on the disease associated allele regulates regional chromatin structure, RNA transcription, or nuclear localization.
The aims of Project 4 (Dr. Miller) will be to use FSHD-derived IPS cells to identify the transcriptional an epigenetic determinants of FSHD, and the regulatory regions in the D4Z4 region. Dr. Tawil (Core A) has established an FSHD Bioresources Core with uniformly collected and well-characterized biological samples from FSHD and control individuals.
The aims of Core A will be to collect DNA from blood samples for genetic analysis, fibroblast and myoblasts from skin and muscle for biological studies, and muscle biopsies for histochemical and in situ biological analyses. The Administrative Core (Core B) will coordinate the administration of the grant, communications among the participants, and reporting responsibilities. Together, these studies combine genetic, epigenetic, transcriptional and developmental approaches to defining the molecular deficits that cause FSHD and will provide a new basis for developing therapies.

Public Health Relevance

The pathophsiology of FSHD is currently unknown and there are no validated targets or mechanisms that can provide the basis for therapeutic development. The significance of this proposed study is that it will identify and validate specific mechanisms for the pathophysiology of FSHD. The human health relevance of this work is that it will provide a new basis for rational therapeutic development for FSHD. PROJECT 1 Principal Investigator: Silvere van der Maarel, PhD Title: The Genetic and Epigenetic Basis for FSHD Description (provided by applicant): We have demonstrated that FSHD is caused by a contraction-cfepencfenf (FSHD1) or contractionindependent (FSHD2) change in chromatin structure of D4Z4 only when this contraction occurs on a specific genetic background (4qA161). This leads to the hypothesis that a change in D4Z4 chromatin structure on the 4qA161 haplotype is essential for FSHD pathology. Therefore, the long-term goal is to identify the specific DNA sequences and the epigenetic modifications that together confer pathogenicity to 4qA161. Aim 1 will identify and functionally characterize the disease haplotype-specific sequence variants of the distal repeat unit and flanking pLAM sequence. Recent studies identified this part of the FSHD locus as the minimal essential region;Aim 2 will identify and functionally characterize the chromatin structure of this minimal essential region test the hypothesis that the D4Z4 repeats regulate DUX4 expression and have a biological role in early embryonic development;and Aim 3 will determine the genetic and epigenetic characteristics of D4Z4 in human ES cells to establish the developmental role of D4Z4 in relation to the clinical features of FSHD. Public Health Relevance: The significance of these studies is that identifying the genetic and epigenetic conditions required for FSHD will provide fundamental insight into the pathophysiology of FSHD as well as providing new avenues for interventional therapies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Initial Review Group (NSD)
Program Officer
Nuckolls, Glen H
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
United States
Zip Code
van den Boogaard, Marlinde L; Lemmers, Richard J F L; Camaño, Pilar et al. (2016) Double SMCHD1 variants in FSHD2: the synergistic effect of two SMCHD1 variants on D4Z4 hypomethylation and disease penetrance in FSHD2. Eur J Hum Genet 24:78-85
Jagannathan, Sujatha; Shadle, Sean C; Resnick, Rebecca et al. (2016) Model systems of DUX4 expression recapitulate the transcriptional profile of FSHD cells. Hum Mol Genet :
van den Boogaard, Marlinde L; Lemmers, Richard J L F; Balog, Judit et al. (2016) Mutations in DNMT3B Modify Epigenetic Repression of the D4Z4 Repeat and the Penetrance of Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy. Am J Hum Genet 98:1020-9
Tawil, Rabi; Padberg, George W; Shaw, Dennis W et al. (2016) Clinical trial preparedness in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy: Clinical, tissue, and imaging outcome measures 29-30 May 2015, Rochester, New York. Neuromuscul Disord 26:181-6
Knopp, Paul; Krom, Yvonne D; Banerji, Christopher R S et al. (2016) DUX4 induces a transcriptome more characteristic of a less-differentiated cell state and inhibits myogenesis. J Cell Sci 129:3816-3831
Daxinger, Lucia; Tapscott, Stephen J; van der Maarel, Silvère M (2015) Genetic and epigenetic contributors to FSHD. Curr Opin Genet Dev 33:56-61
Statland, Jeffrey M; Donlin-Smith, Colleen M; Tapscott, Stephen J et al. (2015) Milder phenotype in facioscapulohumeral dystrophy with 7-10 residual D4Z4 repeats. Neurology 85:2147-50
Lim, Jong-Won; Snider, Lauren; Yao, Zizhen et al. (2015) DICER/AGO-dependent epigenetic silencing of D4Z4 repeats enhanced by exogenous siRNA suggests mechanisms and therapies for FSHD. Hum Mol Genet 24:4817-28
Statland, Jeffrey M; Shah, Bharati; Henderson, Don et al. (2015) Muscle pathology grade for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy biopsies. Muscle Nerve 52:521-6
Statland, Jeffrey M; Odrzywolski, Karen J; Shah, Bharati et al. (2015) Immunohistochemical Characterization of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy Muscle Biopsies. J Neuromuscul Dis 2:291-299

Showing the most recent 10 out of 36 publications