Mouse models of dominant ACTA1 disease recapitulate human disease and provide insight into therapies

Ravenscroft G, Jackaman C, Bringans S, Papadimitriou JM, Griffiths LM, McNamara E, Bakker AJ, Davies KE, Laing NG & Nowak KJ (2011). Mouse models of dominant ACTA1 disease recapitulate human disease and provide insight into therapies. Brain : a journal of neurology, 134(Pt 4), 1101-1115.


Mutations in the skeletal muscle α-actin gene (ACTA1) cause a range of pathologically defined congenital myopathies. Most patients have dominant mutations and experience severe skeletal muscle weakness, dying within one year of birth. To determine mutant ACTA1 pathobiology, transgenic mice expressing ACTA1(D286G) were created. These Tg(ACTA1)(D286G) mice were less active than wild-type individuals. Their skeletal muscles were significantly weaker by in vitro analyses and showed various pathological lesions reminiscent of human patients, however they had a normal lifespan. Mass spectrometry revealed skeletal muscles from Tg(ACTA1)(D286G) mice contained ∼25% ACTA1(D286G) protein. Tg(ACTA1)(D286G) mice were crossed with hemizygous Acta1(+/-) knock-out mice to generate Tg(ACTA1)(D286G)(+/+).Acta1(+/-) offspring that were homozygous for the transgene and hemizygous for the endogenous skeletal muscle α-actin gene. Akin to most human patients, skeletal muscles from these offspring contained approximately equal proportions of ACTA1(D286G) and wild-type actin. Strikingly, the majority of these mice presented with severe immobility between postnatal Days 8 and 17, requiring euthanasia. Their skeletal muscles contained extensive structural abnormalities as identified in severely affected human patients, including nemaline bodies, actin accumulations and widespread sarcomeric disarray. Therefore we have created valuable mouse models, one of mild dominant ACTA1 disease [Tg(ACTA1)(D286G)], and the other of severe disease, with a dramatically shortened lifespan [Tg(ACTA1)(D286G)(+/+).Acta1(+/-)]. The correlation between mutant ACTA1 protein load and disease severity parallels effects in ACTA1 families and suggests altering this ratio in patient muscle may be a therapy for patients with dominant ACTA1 disease. Furthermore, ringbinden fibres were observed in these mouse models. The presence of such features suggests that perhaps patients with ringbinden of unknown genetic origin should be considered for ACTA1 mutation screening. This is the first experimental, as opposed to observational, evidence that mutant protein load determines the severity of ACTA1 disease.



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