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Keywords:

  • arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy;
  • desmoplakin;
  • desmosomes;
  • genetics;
  • keratinocytes;
  • protein expression

Mutations in the gene for desmoplakin (DSP) may cause arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and Carvajal syndrome (CS). Desmoplakin is part of all desmosomes, which are abundantly expressed in both myocardial and epidermal tissue and serve as intercellular mechanical junctions. This study aimed to investigate protein expression in myocardial and epidermal tissue of ARVC and CS patients carrying DSP mutations in order to elucidate potential molecular disease mechanisms. Genetic investigations identified three ARVC patients carrying different heterozygous DSP mutations in addition to a homozygous DSP mutation in a CS patient. The protein expression of DSP in mutation carriers was evaluated in biopsies from myocardial and epidermal tissue by immunohistochemistry. Keratinocyte cultures were established from skin biopsies of mutation carriers and characterized by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, and protein mass spectrometry. The results showed that the mutation carriers had abnormal DSP expression in both myocardial and epidermal tissue. The investigations revealed that the disease mechanisms varied accordingly to the specific types of DSP mutation identified and included haploinsufficiency, dominant-negative effects, or a combination hereof. Furthermore, the results suggest that the keratinocytes cultured from patients are a valuable and easily accessible resource to elucidate the effects of desmosomal gene mutations in humans.