Aggregating instead of stabilizing: New insights into the mechanisms of heart disease

May 23, 2012

Malformed desmin proteins aggregate with intact proteins of the same kind, thereby triggering skeletal and cardiac muscle diseases, the desminopathies. This was discovered by researchers from the RUB Heart and Diabetes Center NRW in Bad Oeynhausen led by PD Dr. Hendrik Milting in an interdisciplinary research project with colleagues from the universities in Karlsruhe, Würzburg and Bielefeld. They report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Desmin normally forms stabilizing filaments inside of the cells. Different mutations in the DES gene, which contains the blueprint for the , induce different muscle diseases. Since chromosomes are always present in pairs, each cell has two DES genes on two different chromosomes. The desminopathies break out even if only one of the DES genes is mutated. With Photo Activation Localization Microscopy (PALM), the interdisciplinary team led by Dr. Milting revealed the mechanism behind this.

If one DES gene is mutated and one intact, a cell produces both malformed and normal proteins. Since not only the mutant desmin proteins clump together, but also the intact exemplars are incorporated into the aggregates, one defective DES gene is enough to trigger the disease. Using the PALM microscope, the researchers attach two different fluorescent molecules to the mutant and the intact proteins. They can turn these markers on and off by laser, effectively flashing them. From the "snapshots" of the intact and the mutated proteins, the computer then calculates a joint picture on which both protein variants can be seen. PALM is a novel microscopy technique that can achieve ten times higher resolution than conventional light microscopy.

In the next step, the research group would like to find out how mutations in the DES gene trigger what is termed arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, ARVC for short. This rare heart muscle disease is characterized by a severe defect – especially to the right ventricle – and by rhythm problems that can lead to sudden cardiac death due to defects in the cell-cell contacts.

Explore further: 'ROCK' off: Study establishes molecular link between genetic defect and heart malformation

More information: A. Brodehl et al. (2012): Dual-color photoactivation localization microscopy of cardiomyopathy associated desmin mutants, Journal of Biological Chemistry, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.313841

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Artificial beta cells

December 8, 2016

Researchers led by ETH Professor Martin Fussenegger at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel have produced artificial beta cells using a straightforward engineering approach.

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.