Rationale: Loss-of-function studies in cardiac myocytes (CMs) are currently limited by the need for appropriate conditional knockout alleles. The factors that regulate CM maturation are poorly understood. Previous studies on CM maturation have been confounded by heart dysfunction caused by whole organ gene inactivation.
Objective: To develop a new technical platform to rapidly characterize cell-autonomous gene function in postnatal murine CMs and apply it to identify genes that regulate transverse tubules (T-tubules), a hallmark of mature CMs.
Methods and results: We developed CRISPR/Cas9/AAV9-based somatic mutagenesis, a platform in which AAV9 delivers tandem guide RNAs targeting a gene of interest and cardiac troponin-T promoter-driven Cre to RosaCas9GFP/Cas9GFP neonatal mice. When directed against junctophilin-2 (Jph2), a gene previously implicated in T-tubule maturation, we achieved efficient, rapid, and CM-specific JPH2 depletion. High-dose AAV9 ablated JPH2 in 64% CMs and caused lethal heart failure, whereas low-dose AAV9 ablated JPH2 in 22% CMs and preserved normal heart function. In the context of preserved heart function, CMs lacking JPH2 developed T-tubules that were nearly morphologically normal, indicating that JPH2 does not have a major, cell-autonomous role in T-tubule maturation. However, in hearts with severe dysfunction, both adeno-associated virus-transduced and nontransduced CMs exhibited T-tubule disruption, which was more severe in the transduced subset. These data indicate that cardiac dysfunction disrupts T-tubule structure and that JPH2 protects T-tubules in this context. We then used CRISPR/Cas9/AAV9-based somatic mutagenesis to screen 8 additional genes for required, cell-autonomous roles in T-tubule formation. We identified RYR2 (Ryanodine Receptor-2) as a novel, cell-autonomously required T-tubule maturation factor.
Conclusions: CRISPR/Cas9/AAV9-based somatic mutagenesis is a powerful tool to study cell-autonomous gene functions. Genetic mosaics are invaluable to accurately define cell-autonomous gene function. JPH2 has a minor role in normal T-tubule maturation but is required to stabilize T-tubules in the failing heart. RYR2 is a novel T-tubule maturation factor.
Keywords: alleles; gene silencing; heart failure; maturation; mutagenesis; transverse tubule.
© 2017 American Heart Association, Inc.