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Brain. 2007 Dec;130(Pt 12):3237-49.

Analysis of the UK diagnostic strategy for limb girdle muscular dystrophy 2A.

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Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Diagnosis of limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A can be complex due to phenotypic variability, lack of precision of protein analysis in muscle biopsies, and absence of mutational hot spots in the CAPN3 gene. The aim of this study was to review clinical and biopsy data from a group of patients with known CAPN3 genetic status to validate and refine our current diagnostic strategy, which combines clinical information and protein analysis to direct gene testing. We analysed 85 patients in whom CAPN3 gene sequencing had been performed. Forty-two patients had two mutations, 15 a single mutation and in 28 no mutation was found. We identified clinical features that clearly discriminated the LGMD2A patients. These were: presence of scapular winging, contractures and normal respiratory function. In addition, a typical pattern of muscle weakness on manual muscle testing could be confirmed. Interpretation of protein expression obtained by Western blot was complex and involved the analysis of a number of bands detected by two antibodies for calpain 3. Loss of all calpain 3 bands was 100% specific for LGMD2A, but this pattern was found in only 23%. Absence or reduction of the approximately 60 kDa bands was also highly specific for LGMD2A, while increased abundance was highly predictive of no mutations being found even where other bands were reduced, suggesting that this is the most sensitive marker of artefactual protein degradation. Twenty-three percent of the patients with two mutations had normal full-sized calpain 3 protein, consistent with the finding of mutations localized in parts of the gene likely or proven to be involved in autolytic activity. Clinical and biochemical findings in patients with only one mutation were similar to patients with two mutations, indicating that other gene analysis techniques should be used before excluding the diagnosis. Our analysis confirms that our strategy is still valid to prioritize genetic testing in this complex group of patients, provided patients with normal protein but a suggestive clinical phenotype are not excluded from genetic testing.

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