Muscle histopathology in nebulin-related nemaline myopathy: Ultrastrastructural findings correlated to disease severity and genotype

Edoardo Malfatti, Vilma Lotta Lehtokari, Johann Böhm, Josine M. De Winter, Ursula Schäffer, Brigitte Estournet, Susana Quijano-Roy, Soledad Monges, Fabiana Lubieniecki, Remi Bellance, Mai Thao Viou, Angéline Madelaine, Bin Wu, Ana Lía Taratuto, Bruno Eymard, Katarina Pelin, Michel Fardeau, Coen A.C. Ottenheijm, Carina Wallgren-Pettersson, Jocelyn LaporteNorma B. Romero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Nemaline myopathy (NM) is a rare congenital myopathy characterised by hypotonia, muscle weakness, and often skeletal muscle deformities with the presence of nemaline bodies (rods) in the muscle biopsy. The nebulin (NEB) gene is the most commonly mutated and is thought to account for approximately 50% of genetically diagnosed cases of NM. We undertook a detailed muscle morphological analysis of 14 NEB-mutated NM patients with different clinical forms to define muscle pathological patterns and correlate them with clinical course and genotype. Three groups were identified according to clinical severity. Group 1 (n = 5) comprises severe/lethal NM and biopsy in the first days of life. Group 2 (n = 4) includes intermediate NM and biopsy in infancy. Group 3 (n = 5) comprises typical/mild NM and biopsy in childhood or early adult life. Biopsies underwent histoenzymological, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural analysis. Fibre type distribution patterns, rod characteristics, distribution and localization were investigated. Contractile performance was studied in muscle fibre preparations isolated from seven muscle biopsies from each of the three groups. G1 showed significant myofibrillar dissociation and smallness with scattered globular rods in one third of fibres; there was no type 1 predominance. G2 presented milder sarcomeric dissociation, dispersed or clustered nemaline bodies, and type 1 predominance/uniformity. In contrast, G3 had well-delimited clusters of subsarcolemmal elongated rods and type 1 uniformity without sarcomeric alterations. In accordance with the clinical and morphological data, functional studies revealed markedly low forces in muscle bundles from G1 and a better contractile performance in muscle bundles from biopsies of patients from G2, and G3. In conclusion NEB-mutated NM patients present a wide spectrum of morphological features. It is difficult to establish firm genotype phenotype correlation. Interestingly, there was a correlation between clinical severity on the one hand and the degree of sarcomeric dissociation and contractility efficiency on the other. By contrast the percentage of fibres occupied by rods, as well as the quantity and the sub sarcolemmal position of rods, appears to inversely correlate with severity. Based on our observations, we propose myofibrillar dissociation and changes in contractility as an important cause of muscle weakness in NEB-mutated NM patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalActa neuropathologica communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 27 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Congenital myopathies
  • Muscle contractility
  • Nebulin
  • Nemaline myopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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