An autoantibody identifies arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and participates in its pathogenesis
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Aims: Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is characterized by right ventricular myocardial replacement and life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. Desmosomal gene mutations are sometimes identified, but clinical and genetic diagnosis remains challenging. Desmosomal skin disorders can be caused by desmosomal gene mutations or autoantibodies. We sought to determine if anti-desmosome antibodies are present in subjects with ARVC. Methods and results: We evaluated ARVC subjects and controls for antibodies to cardiac desmosomal cadherin proteins. Desmoglein-2 (DSG2), desmocollin-2, and N-cadherin proteins on western blots were exposed to sera, in primary and validation cohorts of subjects and controls, as well as the naturally occurring Boxer dog model of ARVC. We identified anti-DSG2 antibodies in 12/12 and 25/25 definite ARVC cohorts and 7/8 borderline subjects. Antibody was absent in 11/12, faint in 1/12, and absent in 20/20 of two control cohorts. Anti-DSG2 antibodies were present in 10/10 Boxer dogs with ARVC, and absent in 18/18 without. In humans, the level of anti-DSG2 antibodies correlated with the burden of premature ventricular contractions (r = 0.70), and antibodies caused gap junction dysfunction, a common feature of ARVC, in vitro. Anti-DSG2 antibodies were present in ARVC subjects regardless of whether an underlying mutation was identified, or which mutation was present. A disease-specific DSG2 epitope was identified. Conclusion: Anti-DSG2 antibodies are a sensitive and specific biomarker for ARVC. The development of autoimmunity as a result of target-related mutations is unique. Anti-DSG2 antibodies likely explain the cardiac inflammation that is frequently identified in ARVC and may represent a new therapeutic target.
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