Transgenic mice overexpressing desmocollin-2 (DSC2) develop cardiomyopathy associated with myocardial inflammation and fibrotic remodeling

Andreas Brodehl, Darrell D. Belke, Lauren Garnett, Kristina Martens, Nelly Abdelfatah, Marcela Rodriguez, Catherine Diao, Yong-Xiang Chen, Paul M. K. Gordon, Anders Nygren, Brenda Gerull
Background Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is an inherited heart muscle disorder leading to ventricular arrhythmias and heart failure, mainly as a result of mutations in cardiac desmosomal genes. Desmosomes are cell-cell junctions mediating adhesion of cardiomyocytes; however, the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the disease remain widely unknown. Desmocollin-2 is a desmosomal cadherin serving as an anchor molecule required to reconstitute homeostatic intercellular adhesion with desmoglein-2. Cardiac specific lack of desmoglein-2 leads to severe cardiomyopathy, whereas overexpression does not. In contrast, the corresponding data for desmocollin-2 are incomplete, in particular from the view of protein overexpression. Therefore, we developed a mouse model overexpressing desmocollin-2 to determine its potential contribution to cardiomyopathy and intercellular adhesion pathology. Methods and results We generated transgenic mice overexpressing DSC2 in cardiac myocytes. Transgenic mice developed a severe cardiac dysfunction over 5 to 13 weeks as indicated by 2D-echocardiography measurements. Corresponding histology and immunohistochemistry demonstrated fibrosis, necrosis and calcification which were mainly localized in patches near the epi- and endocardium of both ventricles. Expressions of endogenous desmosomal proteins were markedly reduced in fibrotic areas but appear to be unchanged in non-fibrotic areas. Furthermore, gene expression data indicate an early up-regulation of inflammatory and fibrotic remodeling pathways between 2 to 3.5 weeks of age. Conclusion Cardiac specific overexpression of desmocollin-2 induces necrosis, acute inflammation and patchy cardiac fibrotic remodeling leading to fulminant biventricular cardiomyopathy.

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