Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a common muscle disease whose molecular pathogenesis remains largely unknown. Over-expression of FSHD region gene 1 (FRG1) in mice, frogs, and worms perturbs muscle development and causes FSHD-like phenotypes. FRG1 has been implicated in splicing, and we asked how splicing might be involved in FSHD by conducting a genome-wide analysis in FRG1 mice. We find that splicing perturbations parallel the responses of different muscles to FRG1 over-expression and disease progression. Interestingly, binding sites for the Rbfox family of splicing factors are over-represented in a subset of FRG1-affected splicing events. Rbfox1 knockdown, over-expression, and RNA-IP confirm that these are direct Rbfox1 targets. We find that FRG1 is associated to the Rbfox1 RNA and decreases its stability. Consistent with this, Rbfox1 expression is down-regulated in mice and cells over-expressing FRG1 as well as in FSHD patients. Among the genes affected is Calpain 3, which is mutated in limb girdle muscular dystrophy, a disease phenotypically similar to FSHD. In FRG1 mice and FSHD patients, the Calpain 3 isoform lacking exon 6 (Capn3 E6-) is increased. Finally, Rbfox1 knockdown and over-expression of Capn3 E6- inhibit muscle differentiation. Collectively, our results suggest that a component of FSHD pathogenesis may arise by over-expression of FRG1, reducing Rbfox1 levels and leading to aberrant expression of an altered Calpain 3 protein through dysregulated splicing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Cancer Research