Aims: Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (AC) is one of the most common inherited cardiomyopathies, characterized by progressive fibro-fatty replacement in the myocardium. Clinically, AC manifests itself with ventricular arrhythmias, syncope, and sudden death and shows wide inter- and intra-familial variability. Among the causative genes identified so far, those encoding for the desmosomal proteins plakophilin-2 (PKP2), desmoplakin (DSP), and desmoglein-2 (DSG2) are the most commonly mutated. So far, little is known about the molecular mechanism(s) behind such a varied spectrum of phenotypes, although it has been shown that the causative mutations not only lead to structural abnormalities but also affect the miRNA profiling of cardiac tissue. Here we aimed at studying the pathogenic effects of a nonsense mutation of the desmoglein-2 gene, both at the structural level and in terms of miRNA expression pattern.
Methods and Results: We generated transgenic mice with cardiomyocyte-specific overexpression of a FLAG-tagged human desmoglein-2 harboring the Q558* nonsense mutation found in an AC patient. The hearts of these mice showed signs of fibrosis, decrease in desmosomal size and number and reduction of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Genome-wide RNA-Seq performed in Tg-hQ hearts and non-transgenic hearts revealed that 24 miRNAs were dysregulated in transgenic animals. Further bioinformatic analyses for selected miRNAs suggested that miR-217-5p, miR-499-5p, and miR-708-5p might be involved in the pathogenesis of the disease.
Conclusions: Downregulation of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling might be considered a common key event in the AC pathogenesis. We identified the miRNA signature in AC hearts, with miR-708-5p and miR-217-5p being the most upregulated and miR-499-5p the most downregulated miRNAs. All of them were predicted to be involved in the regulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and might reveal the potential pathophysiology mechanisms of AC, as well as be useful as therapeutic targets for the disease.