First published June 13, 2019 - More info
Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM) is an inherited disorder with variable genetic etiologies. Here we focused on understanding the precise molecular pathology of a single clinical variant in DSP, the gene encoding desmoplakin. We initially identified a novel missense desmoplakin variant (p.R451G) in a patient diagnosed with biventricular ACM. An extensive single-family ACM cohort was assembled, revealing a pattern of coinheritance for R451G desmoplakin and the ACM phenotype. An in vitro model system using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell lines showed depressed levels of desmoplakin in the absence of abnormal electrical propagation. Molecular dynamics simulations of desmoplakin R451G revealed no overt structural changes, but a significant loss of intramolecular interactions surrounding a putative calpain target site was observed. Protein degradation assays of recombinant desmoplakin R451G confirmed increased calpain vulnerability. In silico screening identified a subset of 3 additional ACM-linked desmoplakin missense mutations with apparent enhanced calpain susceptibility, predictions that were confirmed experimentally. Like R451G, these mutations are found in families with biventricular ACM. We conclude that augmented calpain-mediated degradation of desmoplakin represents a shared pathological mechanism for select ACM-linked missense variants. This approach for identifying variants with shared molecular pathologies may represent a powerful new strategy for understanding and treating inherited cardiomyopathies.