Inheritance of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis in Thoroughbreds

Patricia K. Dranchak, Stephanie J. Valberg, Gary W. Onan, Esther M. Gallant, Jennifer M. MacLeay, Erica C. McKenzie, Flavio D. De La Corte, Kari Ekenstedt, James R. Mickelson

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Objective - To develop a diagnostic test for recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) in Thoroughbreds that relied on in vitro contracture of muscle biopsy specimens and determine whether the inheritance pattern of RER diagnosed on the basis of this contracture test was consistent with an autosomal dominant trait. Design - Clinical trial. Animals - 8 adult horses with RER and 16 control adult horses for development of the contracture test; 23 foals for inheritance of RER. Procedure-External intercostal muscle biopsy specimens from the 24 adult horses were tested for contracture in response to halothane and caffeine, and criteria for a positive test result were determined. These criteria were then applied to results for the 23 foals to determine whether they had RER. Simple segregation analysis was performed to determine whether results were consistent with a dominant pattern of inheritance. Results - Results of the contracture test were positive for 5 of the 12 colts and 4 of the 11 fillies. Results of segregation analysis were consistent with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Two sires with RER produced colts with RER, supporting the hypothesis that RER had an autosomal, rather than an X-linked, inheritance pattern. In addition, in 1 instance, an unaffected colt was produced by 2 affected parents, which was not consistent with a recessive mode of inheritance. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Although the expression of the RER trait is influenced by sex, temperament, and diet, among other factors, results from the in vitro muscle contracture test and this breeding trial suggest that RER in Thoroughbreds can be modeled as a genetic trait with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)762-767
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


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