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1.  A New Perspective on Intercalated Disc Organization: Implications for Heart Disease 
Adherens junctions and desmosomes are intercellular adhesive junctions and essential for the morphogenesis, differentiation, and maintenance of tissues that are subjected to high mechanical stress, including heart and skin. The different junction complexes are organized at the termini of the cardiomyocyte called the intercalated disc. Disruption of adhesive integrity via mutations in genes encoding desmosomal proteins causes an inherited heart disease, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). Besides plakoglobin, which is shared by adherens junctions and desmosomes, other desmosomal components, desmoglein-2, desmocollin-2, plakophilin-2, and desmoplakin are also present in ultrastructurally defined fascia adherens junctions of heart muscle, but not other tissues. This mixed-type of junctional structure is termed hybrid adhering junction or area composita. Desmosomal plakophilin-2 directly interacts with adherens junction protein alphaT-catenin, providing a new molecular link between the cadherin-catenin complex and desmosome. The area composita only exists in the cardiac intercalated disc of mammalian species suggesting that it evolved to strengthen mechanical coupling in the heart of higher vertebrates. The cross-talk among different junctions and their implication in the pathogenesis of ARVC are discussed in this review.
doi:10.1155/2010/207835
PMCID: PMC2879923  PMID: 20585598
2.  Desmosomal Cadherins Are Decreased in Explanted Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy Patient Hearts 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75082.
Aims
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular Dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) is an autosomal dominant inherited cardiomyopathy associated with ventricular arrhythmia, heart failure and sudden death. Genetic studies have demonstrated the central role of desmosomal proteins in this disease, where 50% of patients harbor a mutation in a desmosmal gene. However, clinical diagnosis of the disease remains difficult and molecular mechanisms appears heterogeneous and poorly understood. The aim of this study was to characterize the expression profile of desmosomal proteins in explanted ARVD/C heart samples, in order to identify common features of the disease.
Methods and Results
We examined plakophilin-2, desmoglein-2, desmocollin-2, plakoglobin and β-catenin protein expression levels from seven independent ARVD/C heart samples compared to two ischemic, five dilated cardiomyopathy and one healthy heart sample as controls. Ventricular and septum sections were examined by immunoblot analysis of total heart protein extracts and by immunostaining.
Immunoblots indicated significant decreases in desmoglein-2 and desmocollin-2, independent of any known underlying mutations, whereas immune-histochemical analysis showed normal localization of all desmosomal proteins. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed normal DSG2 and DSC2 mRNA transcript levels, suggesting increased protein turn-over rather than transcriptional down regulation.
Conclusion
Reduced cardiac desmoglein-2 and desmocollin-2 levels appear to be specifically associated with ARVD/C, independent of underlying mutations. These findings highlight a key role of desmosomal cadherins in the pathophysiology of ARVD/C. Whether these reductions could be considered as specific markers for ARVD/C requires replication analysis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075082
PMCID: PMC3781033  PMID: 24086444
3.  Compound and Digenic Heterozygosity Contributes to Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
Objective:
To define the genetic basis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
Background:
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), characterized by right ventricular fibrofatty replacement and arrhythmias, causes sudden death. Autosomal dominant Inheritance, reduced penetrance, and 7 desmosome-encoding causative genes are known. The basis of low penetrance is poorly understood.
Methods:
ARVC probands and family members were enrolled, blood obtained, lymphoblastoid cell lines immortalized, DNA extracted, PCR amplification of desmosome-encoding genes performed, PCR products sequenced and diseased tissue samples studied for intercellular junction protein distribution using confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and antibodies against key proteins.
Results:
We identified 21 variants in plakophilin-2 (PKP2) in 38 of 198 probands (19%), including missense, nonsense, splice site, and deletion/insertion mutations. Pedigrees showed wide intra-familial variability (severe early-onset disease to asymptomatic individuals). In 9/38 probands, PKP2 variants were identified that were encoded in trans (compound heterozygosity). The 38 probands hosting PKP2 variants were screened for other desmosomal genes mutations; second variants (digenic heterozygosity) were identified in 16/38 subjects with PKP2 variants (42%) including desmoplakin (DSP, n=6), desmoglein-2 (DSG2, n=5), plakophilin-4 (PKP4, n=1), and desmocollin-2 (DSC2, n=1). Heterozygous mutations in non-PKP 2desmosomal genes occurred in 14/198 subjects (7%), including DSP (n=4), DSG2 (n=5), DSC2 (n=3), and junctional plakoglobin (JUP, n=2). All variants occurred in conserved regions; none were identified in 700 ethnic-matched controls.
Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated abnormalities of protein architecture.
Conclusions:
These data suggest that the genetic basis of ARVC includes reduced penetrance with compound and digenic heterozygosity. Disturbed junctional cytoarchitecture in subjects with desmosomal mutations confirms that ARVC is a disease of the desmosome and cell junction.
doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2009.11.020
PMCID: PMC2852685  PMID: 20152563
Arrhythmias; Cardiomyopathies; Desmosomes; Intercalated Disks; Genetic Mutations
4.  Identification of the plakoglobin-binding domain in desmoglein and its role in plaque assembly and intermediate filament anchorage 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1994;127(1):151-160.
The carboxyterminal cytoplasmic portions (tails) of desmosomal cadherins of both the desmoglein (Dsg) and desmocollin type are integral components of the desmosomal plaque and are involved in desmosome assembly and the anchorage of intermediate-sized filaments. When additional Dsg tails were introduced by cDNA transfection into cultured human epithelial cells, in the form of chimeras with the aminoterminal membrane insertion domain of rat connexin32 (Co32), the resulting stably transfected cells showed a dominant-negative defect specific for desmosomal junctions: despite the continual presence of all desmosomal proteins, the endogenous desmosomes disappeared and the formation of Co32-Dsg chimeric gap junctions was inhibited. Using cell transfection in combination with immunoprecipitation techniques, we have examined a series of deletion mutants of the Dsg1 tail in Co32-Dsg chimeras. We show that upon removal of the last 262 amino acids the truncated Dsg tail still effects the binding of plakoglobin but not of detectable amounts of any catenin and induces the dominant-negative phenotype. However, further truncation or excision of the next 41 amino acids, which correspond to the highly conserved carboxyterminus of the C-domain in other cadherins, abolishes plakoglobin binding and allows desmosomes to reform. Therefore, we conclude that this short segment provides a plakoglobin-binding site and is important for plaque assembly and the specific anchorage of either actin filaments in adherens junctions or IFs in desmosomes.
PMCID: PMC2120186  PMID: 7929560
5.  Cross-Talk between Adherens Junctions and Desmosomes Depends on Plakoglobin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;136(4):919-934.
Squamous epithelial cells have both adherens junctions and desmosomes. The ability of these cells to organize the desmosomal proteins into a functional structure depends upon their ability first to organize an adherens junction. Since the adherens junction and the desmosome are separate structures with different molecular make up, it is not immediately obvious why formation of an adherens junction is a prerequisite for the formation of a desmosome. The adherens junction is composed of a transmembrane classical cadherin (E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin in squamous epithelial cells) linked to either β-catenin or plakoglobin, which is linked to α-catenin, which is linked to the actin cytoskeleton. The desmosome is composed of transmembrane proteins of the broad cadherin family (desmogleins and desmocollins) that are linked to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton, presumably through plakoglobin and desmoplakin. To begin to study the role of adherens junctions in the assembly of desmosomes, we produced an epithelial cell line that does not express classical cadherins and hence is unable to organize desmosomes, even though it retains the requisite desmosomal components. Transfection of E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin into this cell line did not restore the ability to organize desmosomes; however, overexpression of plakoglobin, along with E-cadherin, did permit desmosome organization. These data suggest that plakoglobin, which is the only known common component to both adherens junctions and desmosomes, must be linked to E-cadherin in the adherens junction before the cell can begin to assemble desmosomal components at regions of cell–cell contact. Although adherens junctions can form in the absence of plakoglobin, making use only of β-catenin, such junctions cannot support the formation of desmosomes. Thus, we speculate that plakoglobin plays a signaling role in desmosome organization.
PMCID: PMC2132504  PMID: 9049256
6.  Altered Desmosomal Proteins in Granulomatous Myocarditis and Potential Pathogenic Links to Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
Background
Immunoreactive signal for the desmosomal protein plakoglobin (γ-catenin) is reduced at cardiac intercalated disks in patients with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a highly arrhythmogenic condition caused by mutations in genes encoding desmosomal proteins. Previously, we observed a “false positive” case in which plakoglobin signal was reduced in a patient initially thought to have ARVC but who actually had cardiac sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis can masquerade clinically as ARVC, but has not previously been associated with altered desmosomal proteins.
Methods and Results
We observed marked reduction in immunoreactive signal for plakoglobin at cardiac myocyte junctions in patients with sarcoidosis and giant cell myocarditis, both highly arrhythmogenic forms of myocarditis associated with granulomatous inflammation. In contrast, plakoglobin signal was not depressed in lymphocytic (non-granulomatous) myocarditis. To determine whether cytokines might promote dislocation of plakoglobin from desmosomes, we incubated cultures of neonatal rat ventricular myocytes with selected inflammatory mediators. Brief exposure to low concentrations of IL-17, TNFα and IL-6, cytokines implicated in granulomatous myocarditis, caused translocation of plakoglobin from cell-cell junctions to intracellular sites, whereas other potent cytokines implicated in non-granulomatous myocarditis had no effect, even at much high concentrations. We also observed myocardial expression of IL-17 and TNFα, and elevated serum levels of inflammatory mediators including IL-6R, IL-8, MCP1 and MIP1β in ARVC patients (all p<0.0001 compared with controls).
Conclusions
These results suggest novel disease mechanisms involving desmosomal proteins in granulomatous myocarditis and implicate cytokines, perhaps derived in part from the myocardium, in disruption of desmosomal proteins and arrhythmogenesis in ARVC.
doi:10.1161/CIRCEP.111.964890
PMCID: PMC3203520  PMID: 21859801
plakoglobin; desmosome; sarcoidosis; giant cell myocarditis; cytokines
7.  Cardiac Tissue-Restricted Deletion of Plakoglobin Results in Progressive Cardiomyopathy and Activation of β-Catenin Signaling▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(6):1134-1144.
Mutations in the plakoglobin (JUP) gene have been identified in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) patients. However, the mechanisms underlying plakoglobin dysfunction involved in the pathogenesis of ARVC remain poorly understood. Plakoglobin is a component of both desmosomes and adherens junctions located at the intercalated disc (ICD) of cardiomyocytes, where it functions to link cadherins to the cytoskeleton. In addition, plakoglobin functions as a signaling protein via its ability to modulate the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. To investigate the role of plakoglobin in ARVC, we generated an inducible cardiorestricted knockout (CKO) of the plakoglobin gene in mice. Plakoglobin CKO mice exhibited progressive loss of cardiac myocytes, extensive inflammatory infiltration, fibrous tissue replacement, and cardiac dysfunction similar to those of ARVC patients. Desmosomal proteins from the ICD were decreased, consistent with altered desmosome ultrastructure in plakoglobin CKO hearts. Despite gap junction remodeling, plakoglobin CKO hearts were refractory to induced arrhythmias. Ablation of plakoglobin caused increase β-catenin stabilization associated with activated AKT and inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3β. Finally, β-catenin/TCF transcriptional activity may contribute to the cardiac hypertrophy response in plakoglobin CKO mice. This novel model of ARVC demonstrates for the first time how plakoglobin affects β-catenin activity in the heart and its implications for disease pathogenesis.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01025-10
PMCID: PMC3067899  PMID: 21245375
8.  Autoimmune and infectious skin diseases that target desmogleins 
Desmosomes are intercellular adhesive junctions of epithelial cells that contain two major transmembrane components, the desmogleins (Dsg) and desmocollins (Dsc), which are cadherin-type cell–cell adhesion molecules and are anchored to intermediate filaments of keratin through interactions with plakoglobin and desmoplakin. Desmosomes play an important role in maintaining the proper structure and barrier function of the epidermis and mucous epithelia. Four Dsg isoforms have been identified to date, Dsg1–Dsg4, and are involved in several skin and heart diseases. Dsg1 and Dsg3 are the two major Dsg isoforms in the skin and mucous membranes, and are targeted by IgG autoantibodies in pemphigus, an autoimmune disease of the skin and mucous membranes. Dsg1 is also targeted by exfoliative toxin (ET) released by Staphylococcus aureus in the infectious skin diseases bullous impetigo and staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS). ET is a unique serine protease that shows lock and key specificity to Dsg1. Dsg2 is expressed in all tissues possessing desmosomes, including simple epithelia and myocardia, and mutations in this gene are responsible for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia. Dsg4 plays an important adhesive role mainly in hair follicles, and Dsg4 mutations cause abnormal hair development. Recently, an active disease model for pemphigus was generated by a unique approach using autoantigen-deficient mice that do not acquire tolerance against the defective autoantigen. Adoptive transfer of Dsg3−/− lymphocytes into mice expressing Dsg3 induces stable anti-Dsg3 IgG production with development of the pemphigus phenotype. This mouse model is a valuable tool with which to investigate immunological mechanisms of harmful IgG autoantibody production in pemphigus. Further investigation of desmoglein molecules will continue to provide insight into the unsolved pathophysiological mechanisms of diseases and aid in the development of novel therapeutic strategies with minimal side effects.
doi:10.2183/pjab.86.524
PMCID: PMC3108298  PMID: 20467217
cadherin; pemphigus; impetigo; SSSS; mouse model; ELISA
9.  Crosstalk between desmoglein-2/desmocollin-2/Src kinase and coxsackie and adenovirus receptor/ZO-1 protein complexes regulates blood-testis barrier dynamics 
Morphological studies in the testis reported the presence of ‘desmosome-like’ junctions between Sertoli cells at the blood-testis barrier, whose function is also constituted by tight junctions and basal ectoplasmic specializations. Unfortunately, little is known about the role of desmosomes in blood-testis barrier dynamics. This study aims to fill this gap with the functional investigation of two desmosomal cadherins, desmoglein-2 and desmocollin-2, by their specific knockdown in Sertoli cells cultured in vitro. Reminiscent of the blood-testis barrier in vivo, desmosome-like structures were visible by electron microscopy when Sertoli cells were cultured at high density, thereby forming a polarized epithelium with functional cell junctions. At this point, we opted to focus our efforts on desmoglein-2 and desmocollin-2 based on results which illustrated desmosomal mRNAs to be expressed by Sertoli and germ cells, as well as on results which illustrated desmoglein-2 to co-immunoprecipitate with plakoglobin, c-Src and desmocollin-2. Simultaneous knockdown of desmoglein-2 and desmocollin-2 not only led to a reduction and mislocalization of zonula occludens-1, but also perturbed the localization of c-Src and coxsackie and adenovirus receptor at the cell-cell interface, resulting in disruption of tight junction permeability barrier. We hereby propose a novel regulatory protein complex composed of desmoglein-2, desmocollin-2, c-Src, coxsackie and adenovirus receptor and ZO-1 at the blood-testis barrier.
doi:10.1016/j.biocel.2010.02.010
PMCID: PMC2864650  PMID: 20188849
testis; desmosome; blood-testis barrier; Sertoli cell
10.  Remodeling of the cardiac sodium channel, Connexin43 and Plakoglobin at the intercalated disk in patients with arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy 
Background
Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (AC) is tightly associated with desmosomal mutations in the majority of patients. Arrhythmogenesis in AC patients is likely related to remodeling of cardiac gap junctions and increased levels of fibrosis. Recently, using experimental models, we also identified sodium channel dysfunction secondary to desmosomal dysfunction. The aim of the present study was to assess the immunoreactive signal levels of the sodium channel protein NaV1.5, as well as Connexin43 and Plakoglobin, in myocardial specimens obtained from AC patients.
Methods
Left and right ventricular free wall (LVFW/RVFW) post-mortem material was obtained from 5 AC patients and 5 age and sex-matched controls. RV septal biopsies (RVSB) were taken from another 15 AC patients. All patients fulfilled the 2010 revised Task Force Criteria for AC diagnosis. Immunohistochemical analyses were performed using antibodies against Connexin43 (Cx43), Plakoglobin, NaV1.5, Plakophilin-2 and N-Cadherin.
Results
N-Cadherin and Desmoplakin immunoreactive signals and distribution were normal in AC patients compared to control. Plakophilin-2 signals were unaffected unless a PKP2 mutation predicting haploinsufficiency was present. Distribution was unchanged compared to control. Immunoreactive signal levels of PKG, Cx43 and NaV1.5 were disturbed in 74%, 70% and 65% of the patients, respectively.
Conclusions
Reduced immunoreactive signal of PKG, Cx43 and NaV1.5 at the intercalated disks can be observed in a large majority of the patients. Decreased levels of Nav1.5 might contribute to arrhythmia vulnerability and, in the future, potentially could serve as a new clinically relevant tool for risk assessment strategies.
doi:10.1016/j.hrthm.2012.11.018
PMCID: PMC3608196  PMID: 23178689
11.  Mechanistic insights into arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy caused by desmocollin-2 mutations 
Cardiovascular Research  2010;90(1):77-87.
Aims
Recent immunohistochemical studies observed the loss of plakoglobin (PG) from the intercalated disc (ID) as a hallmark of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), suggesting a final common pathway for this disease. However, the underlying molecular processes are poorly understood.
Methods and results
We have identified novel mutations in the desmosomal cadherin desmocollin 2 (DSC2 R203C, L229X, T275M, and G371fsX378). The two missense mutations (DSC2 R203C and T275M) have been functionally characterized, together with a previously reported frameshift variant (DSC2 A897fsX900), to examine their pathogenic potential towards PG's functions at the ID. The three mutant proteins were transiently expressed in various cellular systems and assayed for expression, processing, localization, and binding to other desmosomal components in comparison to wild-type DSC2a protein. The two missense mutations showed defects in proteolytic cleavage, a process which is required for the functional activation of mature cadherins. In both cases, this is thought to cause a reduction of functional DSC2 at the desmosomes in cardiac cells. In contrast, the frameshift variant was incorporated into cardiac desmosomes; however, it showed reduced binding to PG.
Conclusion
Despite different modes of action, for all three variants, the reduced ability to provide a ligand for PG at the desmosomes was observed. This is in agreement with the reduced intensity of PG at these structures observed in ARVC patients.
doi:10.1093/cvr/cvq353
PMCID: PMC3058729  PMID: 21062920
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy; Desmocollin-2; Desmosome; Functional studies; Mutation
12.  The C-terminal unique region of desmoglein 2 inhibits its internalization via tail–tail interactions 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;199(4):699-711.
Tail–tail interactions of desmoglein 2, promoted by its C-terminal unique region, inhibit its internalization, stabilizing it at the cell surface and promoting intercellular adhesion.
Desmosomal cadherins, desmogleins (Dsgs) and desmocollins, make up the adhesive core of intercellular junctions called desmosomes. A critical determinant of epithelial adhesive strength is the level and organization of desmosomal cadherins on the cell surface. The Dsg subclass of desmosomal cadherins contains a C-terminal unique region (Dsg unique region [DUR]) with unknown function. In this paper, we show that the DUR of Dsg2 stabilized Dsg2 at the cell surface by inhibiting its internalization and promoted strong intercellular adhesion. DUR also facilitated Dsg tail–tail interactions. Forced dimerization of a Dsg2 tail lacking the DUR led to decreased internalization, supporting the conclusion that these two functions of the DUR are mechanistically linked. We also show that a Dsg2 mutant, V977fsX1006, identified in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy patients, led to a loss of Dsg2 tail self-association and underwent rapid endocytosis in cardiac muscle cells. Our observations illustrate a new mechanism desmosomal cadherins use to control their surface levels, a key factor in determining their adhesion and signaling roles.
doi:10.1083/jcb.201202105
PMCID: PMC3494854  PMID: 23128240
13.  TMEM43 Mutation p.S358L Alters Intercalated Disc Protein Expression and Reduces Conduction Velocity in Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109128.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a myocardial disease characterized by fibro-fatty replacement of myocardium in the right ventricular free wall and frequently results in life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. A heterozygous missense mutation in the transmembrane protein 43 (TMEM43) gene, p.S358L, has been genetically identified to cause autosomal dominant ARVC type 5 in a founder population from the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Little is known about the function of the TMEM43 protein or how it leads to the pathogenesis of ARVC. We sought to determine the distribution of TMEM43 and the effect of the p.S358L mutation on the expression and distribution of various intercalated (IC) disc proteins as well as functional effects on IC disc gap junction dye transfer and conduction velocity in cell culture. Through Western blot analysis, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), immunofluorescence (IF), and electrophysiological analysis, our results showed that the stable expression of p.S358L mutation in the HL-1 cardiac cell line resulted in decreased Zonula Occludens (ZO-1) expression and the loss of ZO-1 localization to cell-cell junctions. Junctional Plakoglobin (JUP) and α-catenin proteins were redistributed to the cytoplasm with decreased localization to cell-cell junctions. Connexin-43 (Cx43) phosphorylation was altered, and there was reduced gap junction dye transfer and conduction velocity in mutant TMEM43-transfected cells. These observations suggest that expression of the p.S358L mutant of TMEM43 found in ARVC type 5 may affect localization of proteins involved in conduction, alter gap junction function and reduce conduction velocity in cardiac tissue.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109128
PMCID: PMC4208740  PMID: 25343256
14.  Geographical distribution of plakophilin-2 mutation prevalence in patients with arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy 
Netherlands Heart Journal  2012;20(5):234-239.
Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (AC) is characterised by myocardial fibrofatty tissue infiltration and presents with palpitations, ventricular arrhythmias, syncope and sudden cardiac death. AC is associated with mutations in genes encoding the desmosomal proteins plakophilin-2 (PKP2), desmoplakin (DSP), desmoglein-2 (DSG2), desmocollin-2 (DSC2) and junctional plakoglobin (JUP). In the present study we compared 28 studies (2004–2011) on the prevalence of mutations in desmosomal protein encoding genes in relation to geographic distribution of the study population. In most populations, mutations in PKP2 showed the highest prevalence. Mutation prevalence in DSP, DSG2 and DSC2 varied among the different geographic regions. Mutations in JUP were rarely found, except in Denmark and the Greece/Cyprus region.
doi:10.1007/s12471-012-0274-x
PMCID: PMC3346879  PMID: 22527912
Cardiomyopathy; Plakophilin-2; Mutation; Desmosome; Prevalence; Geography; Medicine & Public Health; Medicine/Public Health, general
15.  Loss of Cadherin-Binding Proteins β-Catenin and Plakoglobin in the Heart Leads to Gap Junction Remodeling and Arrhythmogenesis 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(6):1056-1067.
Arrhythmic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a hereditary heart muscle disease that causes sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young people. Almost half of ARVC patients have a mutation in genes encoding cell adhesion proteins of the desmosome, including plakoglobin (JUP). We previously reported that cardiac tissue-specific plakoglobin (PG) knockout (PG CKO) mice have no apparent conduction abnormality and survive longer than expected. Importantly, the PG homolog, β-catenin (CTNNB1), showed increased association with the gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) in PG CKO hearts. To determine whether β-catenin is required to maintain cardiac conduction in the absence of PG, we generated mice lacking both PG and β-catenin specifically in the heart (i.e., double knockout [DKO]). The DKO mice exhibited cardiomyopathy, fibrous tissue replacement, and conduction abnormalities resulting in SCD. Loss of the cadherin linker proteins resulted in dissolution of the intercalated disc (ICD) structure. Moreover, Cx43-containing gap junction plaques were reduced at the ICD, consistent with the arrhythmogenicity of the DKO hearts. Finally, ambulatory electrocardiogram monitoring captured the abrupt onset of spontaneous lethal ventricular arrhythmia in the DKO mice. In conclusion, these studies demonstrate that the N-cadherin-binding partners, PG and β-catenin, are indispensable for maintaining mechanoelectrical coupling in the heart.
doi:10.1128/MCB.06188-11
PMCID: PMC3295003  PMID: 22252313
16.  The Amino-terminal Domain of Desmoplakin Binds to Plakoglobin and Clusters Desmosomal Cadherin–Plakoglobin Complexes  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;139(3):773-784.
The desmosome is a highly organized plasma membrane domain that couples intermediate filaments to the plasma membrane at regions of cell–cell adhesion. Desmosomes contain two classes of cadherins, desmogleins, and desmocollins, that bind to the cytoplasmic protein plakoglobin. Desmoplakin is a desmosomal component that plays a critical role in linking intermediate filament networks to the desmosomal plaque, and the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin targets desmoplakin to the desmosome. However, the desmosomal protein(s) that bind the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin have not been identified. To determine if the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin interact with the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin, these proteins were co-expressed in L-cell fibroblasts, cells that do not normally express desmosomal components. When expressed in L-cells, the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin exhibited a diffuse distribution. However, in the presence of an amino-terminal desmoplakin polypeptide (DP-NTP), the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin were observed in punctate clusters that also contained DP-NTP. In addition, plakoglobin and DP-NTP were recruited to cell–cell interfaces in L-cells co-expressing a chimeric cadherin with the E-cadherin extracellular domain and the desmoglein-1 cytoplasmic domain, and these cells formed structures that were ultrastructurally similar to the outer plaque of the desmosome. In transient expression experiments in COS cells, the recruitment of DP-NTP to cell borders by the chimera required co-expression of plakoglobin. Plakoglobin and DP-NTP co-immunoprecipitated when extracted from L-cells, and yeast two hybrid analysis indicated that DP-NTP binds directly to plakoglobin but not Dsg1. These results identify a role for desmoplakin in organizing the desmosomal cadherin–plakoglobin complex and provide new insights into the hierarchy of protein interactions that occur in the desmosomal plaque.
PMCID: PMC2141713  PMID: 9348293
17.  Mutations with pathogenic potential in proteins located in or at the composite junctions of the intercalated disk connecting mammalian cardiomyocytes: a reference thesaurus for arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies and for Naxos and Carvajal diseases 
Cell and Tissue Research  2012;348(2):325-333.
In the past decade, an avalanche of findings and reports has correlated arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathies (ARVC) and Naxos and Carvajal diseases with certain mutations in protein constituents of the special junctions connecting the polar regions (intercalated disks) of mature mammalian cardiomyocytes. These molecules, apparently together with some specific cytoskeletal proteins, are components of (or interact with) composite junctions. Composite junctions contain the amalgamated fusion products of the molecules that, in other cell types and tissues, occur in distinct separate junctions, i.e. desmosomes and adherens junctions. As the pertinent literature is still in an expanding phase and is obviously becoming important for various groups of researchers in basic cell and molecular biology, developmental biology, histology, physiology, cardiology, pathology and genetics, the relevant references so far recognized have been collected and are presented here in the following order: desmocollin-2 (Dsc2, DSC2), desmoglein-2 (Dsg2, DSG2), desmoplakin (DP, DSP), plakoglobin (PG, JUP), plakophilin-2 (Pkp2, PKP2) and some non-desmosomal proteins such as transmembrane protein 43 (TMEM43), ryanodine receptor 2 (RYR2), desmin, lamins A and C, striatin, titin and transforming growth factor-β3 (TGFβ3), followed by a collection of animal models and of reviews, commentaries, collections and comparative studies.
doi:10.1007/s00441-012-1365-0
PMCID: PMC3349860  PMID: 22450909
Arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathy; Carvajal disease; Composite junction; Desmosomes; Intercalated disk; Naxos disease
18.  Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy is A Disease of Cardiac Stem Cells 
Current Opinion in Cardiology  2010;25(3):222-228.
Purpose
To review recent developments in clinical aspects, molecular geneticsand pathogenesis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).
Recent findings
ARVC is a primary disease of the myocardium characterized by fibro-adipocytic replacement of myocytes, predominantly in the right ventricle.
Phenotypic expression of ARVC is variable and a significant number of patients may exhibit a subtle phenotype, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Mutations in DSP, JUP, PKP2, DSG2 and DSC2; encoding desmosomal proteins desmoplakin (DP), plakoglobin (PG), plakophilin 2 (PKP2), desmoglein 2 (DSG2), and desmocollin 2 (DSC2), respectively, cause ARVC. Thus, ARVC, at least in a subset, is a disease of desmosomes. In addition, mutations in TMEM43 and TGFB1 have been associated with ARVC. Mechanistic studies indicate that suppressed canonical Wnt signaling, imposed by nuclear PG, is the responsible mechanism for the pathogenesis of ARVC. It leads to the differentiation of a subset of second heart field cardiac progenitor cells at the epicardium to adipocytes due to enhanced expression of adipogenic factors. This mechanism explains the predominant involvement of the right ventricle in ARVC. Hence, ARVC is the first identified disease of disrupted differentiation of cardiac progenitor cells.
Summary
Advances in molecular genetics and the pathogenesis of ARVC could afford the opportunity for a genetic-based diagnosis and development of novel diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets aimed to prevent, attenuate and reverse the evolving phenotype.
doi:10.1097/HCO.0b013e3283376daf
PMCID: PMC2980568  PMID: 20124997
Cardiomyopathy; Genetics; Sudden death; Heart failure; Stem cells
19.  Function of a novel plakophilin-2 mutation in the abnormal expression of connexin43 in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy 
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a desmosomal disease. Desmosomes and gap junctions are important structural components of cardiac intercalated discs. The proteins plakophilin-2 (PKP-2) and connexin43 (Cx43) are components of desmosomes and gap junctions, respectively. This study was conducted to determine whether Cx43 expression is affected by the mutation of the PKP-2 gene in patients with ARVC. A novel mutation was detected in a typical patient with ARVC. The mutated gene was transfected into rat mesenchymal stem cells expressing Cx43 through a pReversied-M-29 plasmid. Cx43 expression was detected using quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis. Cx43 expression was significantly decreased in the mutant PKP-2 group compared with that in the wild-type PKP-2 group. In conclusion, PKP-2 affected Cx43 expression at the gene transcription level in the patient with ARVC.
doi:10.3892/etm.2014.2145
PMCID: PMC4316957  PMID: 25667661
arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy; desmosome; connexin43; gap junction; plakophilin-2 gene
20.  Restrictive loss of plakoglobin in cardiomyocytes leads to arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(23):4582-4596.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is an inheritable myocardial disorder associated with fibrofatty replacement of myocardium and ventricular arrhythmia. A subset of ARVC is categorized as Naxos disease, which is characterized by ARVC and a cutaneous disorder. A homozygous loss-of-function mutation of the Plakoglobin (Jup) gene, which encodes a major component of the desmosome and the adherens junction, had been identified in Naxos patients, although the underlying mechanism remained elusive. We generated Jup mutant mice by ablating Jup in cardiomyocytes. Jup mutant mice largely recapitulated the clinical manifestation of human ARVC: ventricular dilation and aneurysm, cardiac fibrosis, cardiac dysfunction and spontaneous ventricular arrhythmias. Ultra-structural analyses revealed that desmosomes were absent in Jup mutant myocardia, whereas adherens junctions and gap junctions were preserved. We found that ventricular arrhythmias were associated with progressive cardiomyopathy and fibrosis in Jup mutant hearts. Massive cell death contributed to the cardiomyocyte dropout in Jup mutant hearts. Despite the increase of β-catenin at adherens junctions in Jup mutant cardiomyoicytes, the Wnt/β-catenin-mediated signaling was not altered. Transforming growth factor-beta-mediated signaling was found significantly elevated in Jup mutant cardiomyocytes at the early stage of cardiomyopathy, suggesting an important pathogenic pathway for Jup-related ARVC. These findings have provided further insights for the pathogenesis of ARVC and potential therapeutic interventions.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr392
PMCID: PMC3209829  PMID: 21880664
21.  Quantitative Immunohistochemistry of Desmosomal Proteins (Plakoglobin, Desmoplakin and Plakophilin), Connexin-43, and N-cadherin in Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy: An Autopsy Study 
Background:
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a genetic disorder related to mutations in desmosomal proteins. The current study tests the hypothesis that immunohistochemical staining for desmosomal proteins is of diagnostic utility by studying autopsy-confirmed cases of ARVC.
Methods and Results:
We studied 23 hearts from patients dying suddenly with ARVC. Control subject tissues were 21 hearts from people dying from non-cardiac causes (n=15), dilated cardiomyopathy (n=3) and coronary artery disease (n=3).
Areas free of fibrofatty change or scarring were assessed on 50 sections from ARVC (24 left ventricle, 26 right ventricle) and 28 sections from controls. Immunohistochemical stains against plakoglobin, plakophilin, desmoplakin, connexin-43, and N-cadherin were applied and area expression analyzed by computerized morphometry. Desmin was stained as a control for fixation and similarly analyzed.
The mean area of desmin expression was similar in controls and ARVC (86% vs. 85%, p=0.6). Plakoglobin expression was 4.9% ± 0.3% in controls, vs. 4.6% ± 0.3% in ARVC (p=0.3). Plakophilin staining was 4.8% ± 0.3% in controls vs. 4.4% ± 03% in ARVC (p=0.3). Desmoplakin staining was 3.4% in controls vs. 3.2 ± 0.2% in ARVC (p=0.6). There were no significant differences when staining was compared between right and left ventricles (all p > 0.1).
For non-desmosomal proteins, the mean area of connexin-43 staining showed no significant difference by presence of disease.
Conclusions:
The small and insignificant decrease in junction protein expression in ARVC suggests that immunohistochemistry is not a useful tool for the diagnosis.
doi:10.2174/1874192401307010028
PMCID: PMC3680985  PMID: 23802019
ARVC; arrhytmogenic cardiomyopaty; sudden death; autopsy.
22.  Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia 
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia (ARVC/D) is a heart muscle disease clinically characterized by life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. Its prevalence has been estimated to vary from 1:2,500 to 1:5,000. ARVC/D is a major cause of sudden death in the young and athletes. The pathology consists of a genetically determined dystrophy of the right ventricular myocardium with fibro-fatty replacement to such an extent that it leads to right ventricular aneurysms. The clinical picture may include: a subclinical phase without symptoms and with ventricular fibrillation being the first presentation; an electrical disorder with palpitations and syncope, due to tachyarrhythmias of right ventricular origin; right ventricular or biventricular pump failure, so severe as to require transplantation. The causative genes encode proteins of mechanical cell junctions (plakoglobin, plakophilin, desmoglein, desmocollin, desmoplakin) and account for intercalated disk remodeling. Familiar occurrence with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance and variable penetrance has been proven. Recessive variants associated with palmoplantar keratoderma and woolly hair have been also reported. Clinical diagnosis may be achieved by demonstrating functional and structural alterations of the right ventricle, depolarization and repolarization abnormalities, arrhythmias with the left bundle branch block morphology and fibro-fatty replacement through endomyocardial biopsy. Two dimensional echo, angiography and magnetic resonance are the imaging tools for visualizing structural-functional abnormalities. Electroanatomic mapping is able to detect areas of low voltage corresponding to myocardial atrophy with fibro-fatty replacement. The main differential diagnoses are idiopathic right ventricular outflow tract tachycardia, myocarditis, dialted cardiomyopathy and sarcoidosis. Only palliative therapy is available and consists of antiarrhythmic drugs, catheter ablation and implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Young age, family history of juvenile sudden death, QRS dispersion ≥ 40 ms, T-wave inversion, left ventricular involvement, ventricular tachycardia, syncope and previous cardiac arrest are the major risk factors for adverse prognosis. Preparticipation screening for sport eligibility has been proven to be effective in detecting asymptomatic patients and sport disqualification has been life-saving, substantially declining sudden death in young athletes.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-2-45
PMCID: PMC2222049  PMID: 18001465
23.  Hailey-Hailey disease and tight junctions: Claudins 1 and 4 are regulated by ATP2C1 gene encoding Ca2+/Mn2+ ATPase SPCA1 in cultured keratinocytes 
Experimental dermatology  2012;21(8):10.1111/j.1600-0625.2012.01520.x.
Mutations in the ATP2C1 gene encoding Ca2+/Mn2+ ATPase SPCA1 cause Hailey-Hailey disease (HHD, OMIM 16960). HHD is characterized by epidermal acantholysis. We attempted to model HHD using normal keratinocytes in which the SPCA1 mRNA was down-regulated with the small inhibitory RNA (siRNA) method. SiRNA inhibition significantly down-regulated the SPCA1 mRNA, as demonstrated by qPCR, and decreased the SPCA1 protein beyond detectable level, as shown by western analysis. The expression of selected desmosomal, adherens and tight junction (TJ) proteins was then studied in the SPCA1-deficient and control keratinocytes cultured in low (0.06 mM) or high (1.2 mM) calcium concentration. The mRNA and protein levels of most TJ components were up-regulated in non-treated control keratinocyte cultures upon switch from low to high calcium concentration. In contrast, SPCA1-deficient keratinocytes displayed high levels of TJ proteins claudin 1 and 4 even in low calcium. ZO-1 did not however follow similar expression patterns. Protein levels of occludin, betacatenin, E-cadherin, desmoplakin, desmogleins 1-3, desmocollin 2/3 and plakoglobin did not show marked changes in SPCA1 deficient keratinocytes. Indirect immunofluorescence labeling revealed delayed translocation of desmoplakin and desmoglein 3 in desmosomes, and increased intracellular pools of TJ and desmosomal components in SPCA1 inhibited keratinocytes. The results show that SPCA1 regulates the levels of claudins 1 and 4, but does not affect desmosomal protein levels, indicating that TJ proteins are differently regulated. The results also suggest a potential role for claudins in HHD.
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2012.01520.x
PMCID: PMC3879075  PMID: 22639968
Hailey-Hailey disease; tight junction; keratinocyte; ATP2C1; SPCA1
24.  Novel missense mutations in exon 15 of desmoglein-2: Role of the intracellular cadherin segment in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy? 
Heart Rhythm  2010;7(10):1446-1453.
Background
The diagnosis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy can be challenging. Disease-causing mutations in desmosomal genes have been identified. A novel diagnostic feature, loss of immunoreactivity for plakoglobin from the intercalated disks, recently was proposed.
Objective
The purpose of this study was to identify two novel mutations in the intracellular cadherin segment of desmoglein-2 (G812S and C813R in exon 15). Co-segregation of the G812S mutation with disease expression was established in a large Caucasian family. Endomyocardial biopsies of two individuals showed reduced plakoglobin signal at the intercalated disk.
Methods
To understand the pathologic changes occurring in the diseased myocardium, functional studies on three mutations in exon 15 of desmoglein-2 (G812C, G812S, C813R) were performed.
Results
Localization studies failed to detect any differences in targeting or stability of the mutant proteins, suggesting that they act via a dominant negative mechanism. Binding assays were performed to probe for altered binding affinities toward other desmosomal proteins, such as plakoglobin and plakophilin-2. Although no differences were observed for the mutated proteins in comparison to wild-type desmoglein-2, binding to plakophilin-2 depended on the expression system (i.e., bacterial vs mammalian protein expression). In addition, abnormal migration of the C813R mutant protein was observed in gel electrophoresis.
Conclusion
Loss of plakoglobin immunoreactivity from the intercalated disks appears to be the endpoint of complex pathologic changes, and our functional data suggest that yet unknown posttranslational modifications of desmoglein-2 might be involved.
doi:10.1016/j.hrthm.2010.08.007
PMCID: PMC2994644  PMID: 20708101
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy; Desmoglein-2; Desmosome; Genetics; Missense mutation; Plakophilin-2; ARVC, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy; Cx43, connexin43; DSC2, desmocollin-2; DSG2, desmoglein-2; DSP, desmoplakin; GFP, green fluorescent protein; GST, glutathione-S-transferase; ICS, intracellular cadherin segment; PG, plakoglobin; PKP2, plakophilin-2; RV, right ventricle
25.  Defining the Interactions Between Intermediate Filaments and Desmosomes  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1998;141(5):1229-1241.
Desmoplakin (DP), plakoglobin (PG), and plakophilin 1 (PP1) are desmosomal components lacking a transmembrane domain, thus making them candidate linker proteins for connecting intermediate filaments and desmosomes. Using deletion and site-directed mutagenesis, we show that remarkably, removal of ∼1% of DP's sequence obliterates its ability to associate with desmosomes. Conversely, when linked to a foreign protein, as few as 86 NH2-terminal DP residues are sufficient to target to desmosomes efficiently. In in vitro overlay assays, the DP head specifically associates with itself and with desmocollin 1a (Dsc1a). In similar overlay assays, PP1 binds to DP and Dsc1a, and to a lesser extent, desmoglein 1 (Dsg1), while PG binds to Dsg1 and more weakly to Dsc1a and DP. Interestingly, like DP, PG and PP1 associate with epidermal keratins, although PG is considerably weaker in its ability to do so. As judged by overlay assays, the amino terminal head domain of type II keratins appears to have a special importance in establishing these connections. Taken together, our findings provide new insights into the complexities of the links between desmosomes and intermediate filaments (IFs). Our results suggest a model whereby at desmosome sites within dividing epidermal cells, DP and PG anchor to desmosomal cadherins and to each other, forming an ordered array of nontransmembrane proteins that then bind to keratin IFs. As epidermal cells differentiate, PP1 is added as a molecular reinforcement to the plaque, enhancing anchorage to IFs and accounting at least partially for the increase in numbers and stability of desmosomes in suprabasal cells.
PMCID: PMC2137181  PMID: 9606214

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