We have previously reported a group of patients with congenital onset weakness associated with a deficiency of members of the syntrophin-alpha-dystrobrevin subcomplex and have demonstrated that loss of syntrophin and dystrobrevin from the sarcolemma of skeletal muscle can also be associated with denervation. Here, we have further studied four individuals from a consanguineous Egyptian family with a lethal congenital myopathy inherited in an autosomal-recessive fashion and characterized by a secondary loss of beta2-syntrophin and alpha-dystrobrevin from the muscle sarcolemma, central nervous system involvement, and fetal akinesia. We performed homozygosity mapping and candidate gene analysis and identified a mutation that segregates with disease within CNTN1, the gene encoding for the neural immunoglobulin family adhesion molecule, contactin-1. Contactin-1 transcripts were markedly decreased on gene-expression arrays of muscle from affected family members compared to controls. We demonstrate that contactin-1 is expressed at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) in mice and man in addition to the previously documented expression in the central and peripheral nervous system. In patients with secondary dystroglycanopathies, we show that contactin-1 is abnormally localized to the sarcolemma instead of exclusively at the NMJ. The cntn1 null mouse presents with ataxia, progressive muscle weakness, and postnatal lethality, similar to the affected members in this family. We propose that loss of contactin-1 from the NMJ impairs communication or adhesion between nerve and muscle resulting in the severe myopathic phenotype. This disorder is part of the continuum in the clinical spectrum of congenital myopathies and congenital myasthenic syndromes.
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