Limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) type 2A (LGMD2A) is caused by mutations in the CAPN3 gene encoding for calpain-3, a muscle specific protease. While a large number of CAPN3 gene mutations have already been described in calpainopathy patients, the diagnosis has recently shifted from molecular genetics towards biochemical assay of defective protein. However, an estimate of sensitivity and specificity of protein analysis remains to be established. Thus, we first correlated protein and molecular data in our large LGMD2A patient population. By a preliminary immunoblot screening for calpain-3 protein of 548 unclassified patients with various phenotypes (LGMD, myopathy, or elevated levels of serum creatine kinase [hyperCKemia]), we selected 208 cases for CAPN3 gene mutation analysis: 69 had protein deficiency and 139 had normal expression. Mutation search was conducted using SSCP, denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC), amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS-PCR), and direct sequencing methods. We identified 58 LGMD2A mutant patients: 46 (80%) had a variable degree of protein deficiency and 12 (20%) had normal amount of calpain-3. We calculated that the probability of having LGMD2A is very high (84%) when patients show a complete calpain-3 deficiency and progressively decreases with the amount of protein; this new data offers an important tool for genetic counseling when only protein data are available. A total of 37 different CAPN3 gene mutations were detected, 10 of which are novel. In our population, 87% of mutant alleles were concentrated in seven exons (exons 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, and 21) and 61% correspond to only eight mutations, indicating the regions where future molecular analysis could be restricted. This study reports the largest collection of LGMD2A patients so far in which both protein and gene mutations were obtained to draw genotype-protein-phenotype correlations and provide insights into a critical protein domain.
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