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Eur J Hum Genet. 2011 Jan;19(1):64-9. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2010.143. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

Distinguishing the 4qA and 4qB variants is essential for the diagnosis of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy in the Chinese population.

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Department of Neurology and Institute of Neurology, First Affiliated Hospital, Center of Neuroscience, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China.


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is the third most common inherited muscular dystrophy with markedly clinical variability and complex genetic cause. Several reports pertaining to the Caucasian population have confirmed that there are 4qA and 4qB variants of the 4qter subtelomere, and FSHD is uniquely associated with the 4qA variant. However, few data relevant to the Chinese population have been published. In present paper, detailed clinical and genetic re-evaluations were performed in members of four special families who had been initially diagnosed as atypical or asymptomatic FSHD based only on the D4Z4 repeat length analysis. The FSHD-sized D4Z4 repeats in the probands from families 1, 2 and 3 were identified as 4qB variants. These patients were further confirmed as limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD2) or myotonic dystrophy (DM1) by molecular analyses. Specifically, we identified a 4qB variant on chromosome 10 in the healthy members of the fourth FSHD family with complex D4Z4 rearrangements of two exchanged repeat arrays. For the first time, we demonstrated in the Chinese population that D4Z4 contractions on the 4qB variant do not cause FSHD and 4qB variant on chromosome 10 might also represent intermediate structures in the transition from 4q to 10q. Furthermore, our results emphasize that D4Z4 repeat length analysis alone is not sufficient for the diagnosis of FSHD, especially when used as an exclusion criterion. This analysis should be accompanied by 4qA/4qB variant determination and integrated chromosome assignments, especially in patients with obscure and unclassified myopathies similar to atypical forms of FSHD.

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