Autophagic vacuolar myopathies are an emerging group of muscle diseases with common pathologic features. These include autophagic vacuoles containing both lysosomal and autophagosomal proteins sometimes lined with sarcolemmal proteins such as dystrophin. These features have been most clearly described in patients with Danon's disease due to LAMP2 deficiency and X-linked myopathy with excessive autophagy (XMEA) due to mutations in VMA21. Disruptions of these proteins lead to lysosomal dysfunction and subsequent autophagic vacuolar pathology. We performed whole exome sequencing on two families with autosomal dominantly inherited myopathies with autophagic vacuolar pathology and surprisingly identified a p.R454W tail domain mutation and a novel p.S6W head domain mutation in desmin, DES. In addition, re-evaluation of muscle tissue from another family with a novel p.I402N missense DES mutation also identified autophagic vacuoles. We suggest that autophagic vacuoles may be an underappreciated pathology present in desminopathy patient muscle. Moreover, autophagic vacuolar pathology can be due to genetic etiologies unrelated to primary defects in the lysosomes or autophagic machinery. Specifically, cytoskeletal derangement and the accumulation of aggregated proteins such as desmin may activate the autophagic system leading to the pathologic features of an autophagic vacuolar myopathy.
Keywords: Autophagy; Desmin; Myofibrillar myopathy; Protein aggregation.
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