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A giant disruption of the heart
Certain forms of heart failure originate from genetic mutations. Understanding how the culprit mutant proteins alter normal heart function could lead to more effective treatments. One candidate is the giant protein tintin, which is mutated in a subset of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. Through a combination of patient-derived stem cells, tissue engineering, and gene editing, Hinson et al. found that disease-associated titin mutations disrupt the function of the contractile unit in heart muscle. As a result, the heart does not respond properly to mechanical and other forms of stress.
Science, this issue p. 982
Human mutations that truncate the massive sarcomere protein titin [TTN-truncating variants (TTNtvs)] are the most common genetic cause for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a major cause of heart failure and premature death. Here we show that cardiac microtissues engineered from human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are a powerful system for evaluating the pathogenicity of titin gene variants. We found that certain missense mutations, like TTNtvs, diminish contractile performance and are pathogenic. By combining functional analyses with RNA sequencing, we explain why truncations in the A-band domain of TTN cause DCM, whereas truncations in the I band are better tolerated. Finally, we demonstrate that mutant titin protein in iPS cell–derived cardiomyocytes results in sarcomere insufficiency, impaired responses to mechanical and β-adrenergic stress, and attenuated growth factor and cell signaling activation. Our findings indicate that titin mutations cause DCM by disrupting critical linkages between sarcomerogenesis and adaptive remodeling.