Background - The consequence of upregulation of desmin in the heart is unknown. Mutations in desmin have been linked to desmin-related myopathy (DRM), which is characterized by abnormal intrasarcoplasmic accumulation of desmin, but direct causative evidence that a desmin mutation leads to aberrant intrasarcoplasmic desmin accumulation, aggregation, and cardiomyopathy is lacking. Methods and Results - Multiple transgenic mouse lines that expressed either murine wild-type desmin or a 7-amino acid deletion (R173 through E179) desmin (D7-des) mutation linked to DRM were made. The distribution of desmin protein was unchanged, and no overt phenotype was detected in the wild-type desmin transgenic mice. In contrast, the D7-des mouse heart showed aberrant intrasarcoplasmic and electron-dense granular filamentous aggregates that were desmin-positive and characteristic of human DRM. The desmin filament network was significantly disrupted, and myofibril alignment was visibly compromised. Although systolic function at the whole-organ level was substantially conserved in the young adult animals, the ability of the heart to respond to β-agonist stimulation, as measured in the intact animal, was significantly blunted. Conclusions - Upregulation of desmin protein at moderate levels is not detrimental. However, the D7-des mutation is dominant negative, and expression of the mutant protein leads to the appearance of aggregates that are characteristic of and diagnostic for human desmin-related cardiomyopathy.
- Heart diseases
- Molecular biology