Characterization of NEB pathogenic variants in patients reveals novel nemaline myopathy disease mechanisms and omecamtiv mecarbil force effects

Esmat Karimi, Jochen Gohlke, Mila van der Borgh, Johan Lindqvist, Zaynab Hourani, Justin Kolb, Stacy Cossette, Michael W. Lawlor, Coen Ottenheijm, Henk Granzier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nebulin, a critical protein of the skeletal muscle thin filament, plays important roles in physiological processes such as regulating thin filament length (TFL), cross-bridge cycling, and myofibril alignment. Pathogenic variants in the nebulin gene (NEB) cause NEB-based nemaline myopathy (NEM2), a genetically heterogeneous disorder characterized by hypotonia and muscle weakness, currently lacking curative therapies. In this study, we examined a cohort of ten NEM2 patients, each with unique pathogenic variants, aiming to understand their impact on mRNA, protein, and functional levels. Results show that pathogenic truncation variants affect NEB mRNA stability and lead to nonsense-mediated decay of the mutated transcript. Moreover, a high incidence of cryptic splice site activation was found in patients with pathogenic splicing variants that are expected to disrupt the actin-binding sites of nebulin. Determination of protein levels revealed patients with either relatively normal or markedly reduced nebulin. We observed a positive relation between the reduction in nebulin and a reduction in TFL, or reduction in tension (both maximal and submaximal tension). Interestingly, our study revealed a pathogenic duplication variant in nebulin that resulted in a four-copy gain in the triplicate region of NEB and a much larger nebulin protein and longer TFL. Additionally, we investigated the effect of Omecamtiv mecarbil (OM), a small-molecule activator of cardiac myosin, on force production of type 1 muscle fibers of NEM2 patients. OM treatment substantially increased submaximal tension across all NEM2 patients ranging from 87 to 318%, with the largest effects in patients with the lowest level of nebulin. In summary, this study indicates that post-transcriptional or post-translational mechanisms regulate nebulin expression. Moreover, we propose that the pathomechanism of NEM2 involves not only shortened but also elongated thin filaments, along with the disruption of actin-binding sites resulting from pathogenic splicing variants. Significantly, our findings highlight the potential of OM treatment to improve skeletal muscle function in NEM2 patients, especially those with large reductions in nebulin levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number72
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Cyptic splice-site
  • Nebulin
  • Nemaline myopathy
  • Omecamtiv mecarbil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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