Desmin-related myopathies in mice and man

Authors

  • L. Carlsson,

    1. Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Section for Anatomy, Umeå University, Umeå, and Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, National Institute of Working Life, Umeå, Sweden
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  • L.-E. Thornell

    1. Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Section for Anatomy, Umeå University, Umeå, and Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, National Institute of Working Life, Umeå, Sweden
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Thornell Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Section for Anatomy, Umeå University, SE - 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract

Desmin, the main intermediate filament (IF) protein in skeletal and heart muscle cells, is of great importance as a part of the cytoskeleton. The IFs surround and interlink myofibrils, and connect the peripheral myofibrils with the sarcolemma. In myotendinous junctions and neuromuscular junctions of skeletal muscle fibres, desmin is enriched. In the heart, desmin is increased at intercalated discs, the attachment between cardiomyocytes, and it is the main component in Purkinje fibres of the conduction system. Desmin is the first muscle-specific protein to appear during myogenesis. Nevertheless, lack of desmin, as shown from experiments with desmin knockout (K/O) mice, does not influence myogenesis or myofibrillogenesis. However, the desmin knock-out mice postnatally develop a cardiomyopathy and a muscle dystrophy in highly used skeletal muscles. In other skeletal muscles the organization of myofibrils is remarkably unaffected. Thus, the main consequence of the lack of desmin is that the muscle fibres become more susceptible to damage. The loss of membrane integrity leads to a dystrophic process, with degeneration and fibrosis. In the heart cardiac failure develops, whereas in affected skeletal muscles regenerative attempts are seen. In humans, accumulations of desmin have been a hallmark for presumptive desmin myopathies. Recent investigations have shown that some families with such a myopathy have a defect in the gene coding for αB-crystallin, whereas others have mutations in the desmin gene. Typical features of these patients are cardiac affections and muscle weakness. Thus, mutations in the desmin gene is pathogenic for a distinct type of muscle disorder.

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