Background: Nuclear bodies, such as nucleoli, PML bodies, and SC35 speckles, are dynamic sub-nuclear structures that regulate multiple genetic and epigenetic processes. Additional regulation is provided by RNA/DNA handling proteins, notably TDP-43 and FUS, which have been linked to ALS pathology. Previous work showed that mouse cell line myotubes have fewer but larger nucleoli than myoblasts, and we had found that nuclear aggregation of TDP-43 in human myotubes was induced by expression of DUX4-FL, a transcription factor that is aberrantly expressed and causes pathology in facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD). However, questions remained about nuclear bodies in human myogenesis and in muscle disease. Methods: We examined nucleoli, PML bodies, SC35 speckles, TDP-43, and FUS in myoblasts and myotubes derived from healthy donors and from patients with FSHD, laminin-alpha-2-deficiency (MDC1A), and alpha-sarcoglycan-deficiency (LGMD2D). We further examined how these nuclear bodies and proteins were affected by DUX4-FL expression. Results: We found that nucleoli, PML bodies, and SC35 speckles reorganized during differentiation in vitro, with all three becoming less abundant in myotube vs. myoblast nuclei. In addition, though PML bodies did not change in size, both nucleoli and SC35 speckles were larger in myotube than myoblast nuclei. Similar patterns of nuclear body reorganization occurred in healthy control, MDC1A, and LGMD2D cultures, as well as in the large fraction of nuclei that did not show DUX4-FL expression in FSHD cultures. In contrast, nuclei that expressed endogenous or exogenous DUX4-FL, though retaining normal nucleoli, showed disrupted morphology of some PML bodies and most SC35 speckles and also co-aggregation of FUS with TDP-43. Conclusions: Nucleoli, PML bodies, and SC35 speckles reorganize during human myotube formation in vitro. These nuclear body reorganizations are likely needed to carry out the distinct gene transcription and splicing patterns that are induced upon myotube formation. DUX4-FL-induced disruption of some PML bodies and most SC35 speckles, along with co-aggregation of TDP-43 and FUS, could contribute to pathogenesis in FSHD, perhaps by locally interfering with genetic and epigenetic regulation of gene expression in the small subset of nuclei that express high levels of DUX4-FL at any one time.
Homma, S., Beermann, M. L., Yu, B., Boyce, F. M., & Miller, J. B. (2016). Nuclear bodies reorganize during myogenesis in vitro and are differentially disrupted by expression of FSHD-associated DUX4. Skeletal Muscle, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13395-016-0113-7