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Am J Pathol. 2010 Dec;177(6):3025-36. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.100179. Epub 2010 Oct 22.

Mutant (CCTG)n expansion causes abnormal expression of zinc finger protein 9 (ZNF9) in myotonic dystrophy type 2.

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Neuromuscular Research Unit, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.


The mutation that underlies myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is a (CCTG)n expansion in intron 1 of zinc finger protein 9 (ZNF9). It has been suggested that ZNF9 is of no consequence for disease pathogenesis. We determined the expression levels of ZNF9 during muscle cell differentiation and in DM2 muscle by microarray profiling, real-time RT-PCR, splice variant analysis, immunofluorescence, and Western blotting. Our results show that in differentiating myoblasts, ZNF9 protein was localized primarily to the nucleus, whereas in mature muscle fibers, it was cytoplasmic and organized in sarcomeric striations at the Z-disk. In patients with DM2, ZNF9 was abnormally expressed. First, there was an overall reduction in both the mRNA and protein levels. Second, the subcellular localization of the ZNF9 protein was somewhat less cytoplasmic and more membrane-bound. Third, our splice variant analysis revealed retention of intron 3 in an aberrant isoform, and fourth quantitative allele-specific expression analysis showed the persistence of intron 1 sequences from the abnormal allele, further suggesting that the mutant allele is incompletely spliced. Thus, the decrease in total expression appears to be due to impaired splicing of the mutant transcript. Our data indicate that ZNF9 expression in DM2 patients is altered at multiple levels. Although toxic RNA effects likely explain overlapping phenotypic manifestations between DM1 and DM2, abnormal ZNF9 levels in DM2 may account for the differences in DM1.

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