Collagen 6-related dystrophies and myopathies (COL6-RD) are a group of disorders that form a wide phenotypic spectrum, ranging from severe Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, intermediate phenotypes, to the milder Bethlem myopathy. Both inter- and intrafamilial variable expressivity are commonly observed. We present clinical, immunohistochemical, and genetic data on four COL6-RD families with marked intergenerational phenotypic heterogeneity. This variable expression seemingly masquerades as anticipation is due to parental mosaicism for a dominant mutation, with subsequent full inheritance and penetrance of the mutation in the heterozygous offspring. We also present an additional fifth simplex patient identified as a mosaic carrier. Parental mosaicism was confirmed in the four families through quantitative analysis of the ratio of mutant versus wild-type allele (COL6A1,COL6A2, andCOL6A3) in genomic DNA from various tissues, including blood, dermal fibroblasts, and saliva. Consistent with somatic mosaicism, parental samples had lower ratios of mutant versus wild-type allele compared with the fully heterozygote offspring. However, there was notable variability of the mutant allele levels between tissues tested, ranging from 16% (saliva) to 43% (fibroblasts) in one mosaic father. This is the first report demonstrating mosaicism as a cause of intrafamilial/intergenerational variability of COL6-RD, and suggests that sporadic and parental mosaicism may be more common than previously suspected.
Parental mosaicism for dominant collagen VI mutations may be more common than previously expected in COL6-RD. This phenomenon can result in considerably more severely affected offspring and thus has important implications for molecular testing, clinical diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling.