The start codon c.1A>G mutation in KLHL24, encoding ubiquitin ligase KLHL24, results in the loss of 28 N-terminal amino acids (KLHL24-ΔN28) by skipping the initial start codon. In skin, KLHL24-ΔN28 leads to gain of function, excessively targeting intermediate filament keratin-14 for proteasomal degradation and ultimately causing epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS). The majority of patients with EBS are also diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), but the pathological mechanism in the heart is unknown. As desmin is the cardiac homolog of keratin-14, we hypothesized that KLHL24-ΔN28 leads to excessive degradation of desmin, resulting in DCM. Dynamically loaded engineered heart tissues (dyn-EHTs) were generated from human-induced pluripotent stem cell–derived (hiPSC-derived) cardiomyocytes from 2 patients and 3 nonfamilial controls. Ten-fold lower desmin protein levels were observed in patient-derived dyn-EHTs, in line with diminished desmin levels detected in patients’ explanted heart. This was accompanied by tissue dilatation, impaired mitochondrial function, decreased force values, and increased cardiomyocyte stress. HEK293 transfection studies confirmed KLHL24-mediated desmin degradation. KLHL24 RNA interference or direct desmin overexpression recovered desmin protein levels, restoring morphology and function in patient-derived dyn-EHTs. To conclude, presence of KLHL24-ΔN28 in cardiomyocytes leads to excessive degradation of desmin, affecting tissue morphology and function, which can be prevented by restoring desmin protein levels.
Mathilde C.S.C. Vermeer, Maria C. Bolling, Jacqueline M. Bliley, Karla F. Arevalo Gomez, Mario G. Pavez-Giani, Duco Kramer, Pedro H. Romero-Herrera, B. Daan Westenbrink, Gilles F.H. Diercks, Maarten P. van den Berg, Adam W. Feinberg, Herman H.W. Silljé, Peter van der Meer