Background: The CTG repeat expansion causing myotonic dystrophy type 1 is unstable in the germline, and frequent intergenerational length changes are observed, giving rise to the unusual genetics of the disorder. The repeat is also somatically unstable, and expanded alleles accumulate throughout life, thus compromising simple measures of intergenerational stability. Objective: To gain a better understanding of the intergenerational dynamics of the DM1 repeat in the male germline. Methods: We used sensitive small pool PCR procedures to analyze sperm and somatic DNA from 22 DM1 men of different ages, CTG repeat length, and clinical form. Results: High levels of repeat length variation heavily biased toward further expansions were observed in the sperm of all DM1 men. Progenitor allele length was revealed as a major modifier of interindividual variation, with the largest length changes observed for premutation and protomutation alleles and the highest frequency of contractions in full mutation alleles. However, despite clear increases in the degree of somatic mosaicism, no differences were observed in replicate sperm samples obtained from two men during a 4-year period. Conclusions: Progenitor allele length is a major modifier of the mutational dynamics of the DM1 repeat in the male germline, but surprisingly age is not. Therefore, other as yet unidentified modifiers must be responsible for the considerable residual interindividual variation that cannot be accounted for by these factors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology