Experimentally upregulating compliant titins has been suggested as a therapeutic for lowering pathological diastolic stiffness levels. However, how increasing titin compliance impacts global cardiac function requires in-depth study. We investigate the effect of upregulating compliant titins in a novel mouse model with a genetically altered titin splicing factor; integrative approaches were used from intact cardiomyocyte mechanics to pressure-volume analysis and Doppler echocardiography.
Nemaline myopathy (NM) is a congenital muscle disorder associated with muscle weakness, hypotonia, and rod bodies in the skeletal muscle fibers. Mutations in 10 genes have been implicated in human NM, but spontaneous cases in dogs have not been genetically characterized. We identified a novel recessive myopathy in a family of line-bred American bulldogs (ABDs); rod bodies in muscle biopsies established this as NM. Using SNP profiles from the nuclear family, we evaluated inheritance patterns at candidate loci and prioritized TNNT1 and NEB for further investigation. Whole exome sequencing of the dam, two affected littermates, and an unaffected littermate revealed a nonsense mutation in NEB (g.52734272 C>A, S8042X). Whole tissue gel electrophoresis and western blots confirmed a lack of full-length NEB in affected tissues, suggesting nonsense-mediated decay. The pathogenic variant was absent from 120 dogs of 24 other breeds and 100 unrelated ABDs, suggesting that it occurred recently and may be private to the family. This study presents the first molecularly characterized large animal model of NM, which could provide new opportunities for therapeutic approaches.
Diastolic dysfunction is a poorly understood but clinically pervasive syndrome that is characterized by increased diastolic stiffness. Titin is the main determinant of cellular passive stiffness. However, the physiological role that the tandem immunoglobulin (Ig) segment of titin plays in stiffness generation and whether shortening this segment is sufficient to cause diastolic dysfunction need to be established.
Titin-based passive stiffness is post-translationally regulated by several kinases that phosphorylate specific spring elements located within titin's elastic I-band region. Whether titin is phosphorylated by calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), an important regulator of cardiac function and disease, has not been addressed. The aim of this work was to determine whether CaMKIIδ, the predominant CaMKII isoform in the heart, phosphorylates titin, and to use phosphorylation assays and mass spectrometry to study which of titin's spring elements might be targeted by CaMKIIδ. It was found that CaMKIIδ phosphorylates titin in mouse LV skinned fibers, that the CaMKIIδ sites can be dephosphorylated by protein phosphatase 1 (PP1), and that under baseline conditions, in both intact isolated hearts and skinned myocardium, about half of the CaMKIIδ sites are phosphorylated. Mass spectrometry revealed that both the N2B and PEVK segments are targeted by CaMKIIδ at several conserved serine residues. Whether phosphorylation of titin by CaMKIIδ occurs in vivo, was tested in several conditions using back phosphorylation assays and phospho-specific antibodies to CaMKIIδ sites. Reperfusion following global ischemia increased the phosphorylation level of CaMKIIδ sites on titin and this effect was abolished by the CaMKII inhibitor KN-93. No changes in the phosphorylation level of the PEVK element were found suggesting that the increased phosphorylation level of titin in IR (ischemia reperfusion) might be due to phosphorylation of the N2B element. The findings of these studies show for the first time that titin can be phosphoryalated by CaMKIIδ, both in vitro and in vivo, and that titin's molecular spring region that determines diastolic stiffness is a target of CaMKIIδ.
Leiomodin 2 (Lmod2) is an actin-binding protein that has been implicated in the regulation of striated muscle thin filament assembly; its physiological function has yet to be studied. We found that knockout of Lmod2 in mice results in abnormally short thin filaments in the heart. We also discovered that Lmod2 functions to elongate thin filaments by promoting actin assembly and dynamics at thin filament pointed ends. Lmod2-KO mice die as juveniles with hearts displaying contractile dysfunction and ventricular chamber enlargement consistent with dilated cardiomyopathy. Lmod2-null cardiomyocytes produce less contractile force than wild type when plated on micropillar arrays. Introduction of GFP-Lmod2 via adeno-associated viral transduction elongates thin filaments and rescues structural and functional defects observed in Lmod2-KO mice, extending their lifespan to adulthood. Thus, to our knowledge, Lmod2 is the first identified mammalian protein that functions to elongate actin filaments in the heart; it is essential for cardiac thin filaments to reach a mature length and is required for efficient contractile force and proper heart function during development.