The development of therapeutics for muscle diseases such as facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) is impeded by a lack of objective, minimally invasive biomarkers. Here we identify circulating miRNAs and proteins that are dysregulated in early-onset FSHD patients to develop blood-based molecular biomarkers. Plasma samples from clinically characterized individuals with early-onset FSHD provide a discovery group and are compared to healthy control volunteers. Low-density quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based arrays identify 19 candidate miRNAs, while mass spectrometry proteomic analysis identifies 13 candidate proteins. Bioinformatic analysis of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-seq data shows that the FSHD-dysregulated DUX4 transcription factor binds to regulatory regions of several candidate miRNAs. This panel of miRNAs also shows ChIP signatures consistent with regulation by additional transcription factors which are up-regulated in FSHD (FOS, EGR1, MYC, and YY1). Validation studies in a separate group of patients with FSHD show consistent up-regulation of miR-100, miR-103, miR-146b, miR-29b, miR-34a, miR-454, miR-505, and miR-576. An increase in the expression of S100A8 protein, an inflammatory regulatory factor and subunit of calprotectin, is validated by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Bioinformatic analyses of proteomics and miRNA data further support a model of calprotectin and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) pathway dysregulation in FSHD. Moving forward, this panel of miRNAs, along with S100A8 and calprotectin, merit further investigation as monitoring and pharmacodynamic biomarkers for FSHD.
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