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COL4A1 Mutations Cause Neuromuscular Disease with Tissue-Specific Mechanistic Heterogeneity

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Collagen type IV alpha 1 and alpha 2 chains form heterotrimers ([α1(IV)]2α2(IV)) that represent a fundamental basement membrane constituent. Dominant COL4A1 and COL4A2 mutations cause a multisystem disorder that is marked by clinical heterogeneity and variable expressivity and that is generally characterized by the presence of cerebrovascular disease with ocular, renal, and muscular involvement. Despite the fact that muscle pathology is reported in up to one-third of individuals with COL4A1 and COL4A2 mutations and in animal models with mutations in COL4A1 and COL4A2 orthologs, the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying COL4A1-related myopathy are unknown. In general, mutations are thought to impair [α1(IV)]2α2(IV) secretion. Whether pathogenesis results from intracellular retention, extracellular deficiency, or the presence of mutant proteins in basement membranes represents an important gap in knowledge and a major obstacle for developing targeted interventions. We report that Col4a1 mutant mice develop progressive neuromuscular pathology that models human disease. We demonstrate that independent muscular, neural, and vascular insults contribute to neuromyopathy and that there is mechanistic heterogeneity among tissues. Importantly, we provide evidence of a COL4A1 functional subdomain with disproportionate significance for tissue-specific pathology and demonstrate that a potential therapeutic strategy aimed at promoting [α1(IV)]2α2(IV) secretion can ameliorate or exacerbate myopathy in a mutation-dependent manner. These data have important translational implications for prediction of clinical outcomes based on genotype, development of mechanism-based interventions, and genetic stratification for clinical trials. Collectively, our data underscore the importance of the [α1(IV)]2α2(IV) network as a multifunctional signaling platform and show that allelic and tissue-specific mechanistic heterogeneities contribute to the variable expressivity of COL4A1 and COL4A2 mutations.

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