Skeletal muscle growth and regeneration rely on muscle stem cells, called satellite cells. Specific transcription factors, particularly PAX7, are key regulators of the function of these cells. Knockout of this factor in mice leads to poor postnatal survival; however, the consequences of a lack of PAX7 in humans have not been established.
Here, we study five individuals with myopathy of variable severity from four unrelated consanguineous couples. Exome sequencing identified pathogenic variants in the PAX7 gene. Clinical examination, laboratory tests, and muscle biopsies were performed to characterize the disease.
The disease was characterized by hypotonia, ptosis, muscular atrophy, scoliosis, and mildly dysmorphic facial features. The disease spectrum ranged from mild to severe and appears to be progressive. Muscle biopsies showed the presence of atrophic fibers and fibroadipose tissue replacement, with the absence of myofiber necrosis. A lack of PAX7 expression was associated with satellite cell pool exhaustion; however, the presence of residual myoblasts together with regenerating myofibers suggest that a population of PAX7-independent myogenic cells partially contributes to muscle regeneration.
These findings show that biallelic variants in the master transcription factor PAX7 cause a new type of myopathy that specifically affects satellite cell survival.
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We thank the participants and their families for their participation in this study. This study was supported by the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung through the Juniorverbund in der Systemmedizin “mitOmics” (FKZ01ZX1405C to T.B.H.) and Horizon2020 through the E-Rare project GENOMIT (01GM1603 and 01GM1207 for H.P. and FWFI2741B26 for J.A.M.) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SCHO754/52 to L.S. and BA2427/22 to P.B.) as well as the Vereinigung zur Förderung Pädiatrischer Forschung und Fortbildung Salzburg, the EU FP7 Mitochondrial European Educational Training Project (317433 to H.P. and J.A.M.), and the EU Horizon2020 Collaborative Research Project SOUND (633974 to H.P.). N.A.D. is supported by grants from the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé (35015), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (388296), Rare Disease Foundation (2301), and CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. N.A.D. acknowledges the support of ThéCell and Stem Cell Network.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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