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This article is the author’s final published version in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 19, Issue 3, February 2022, Article number 1252.

The published version is available at Copyright © Sabatelli et al.


Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy (UCMD) is a severe form of muscular dystrophy caused by the loss of function of collagen VI, a critical component of the muscle-tendon matrix. Magnetic resonance imaging of UCMD patients’ muscles shows a peculiar rim of abnormal signal at the periphery of each muscle, and a relative sparing of the internal part. The mechanism/s involved in the early fat substitution of muscle fiber at the periphery of muscles remain elusive. We studied a muscle biopsy of the rectus femoris/deep fascia (DF) of a 3-year-old UCMD patient, with a homozygous mutation in the COL6A2 gene. By immunohistochemical and ultrastructural analysis, we found a marked fatty infiltration at the interface of the muscle with the epimysium/DF and an atrophic phenotype, primarily in fast-twitch fibers, which has never been reported before. An unexpected finding was the widespread increase of interstitial cells with long cytoplasmic processes, consistent with the telocyte phenotype. Our study documents for the first time in a muscle biopsy the peculiar pattern of outside-in muscle degeneration followed by fat substitution as already shown by muscle imaging, and an increase of telocytes in the interstitium of the deep fascia, which highlights a potential involvement of this structure in the pathogenesis of UCMD.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.