Background: The pleomorphic clinical presentation makes the diagnosis of desminopathy difficult. We aimed to describe the prevalence, phenotypic expression, and mitochondrial function of individuals with putative disease-causing desmin (DES) variants identified in patients with an unexplained etiology of cardiomyopathy. Methods: A total of 327 Czech patients underwent whole exome sequencing and detailed phenotyping in probands harboring DES variants. Results: Rare, conserved, and possibly pathogenic DES variants were identified in six (1.8%) probands. Two DES variants previously classified as variants of uncertain significance (p.(K43E), p.(S57L)), one novel DES variant (p.(A210D)), and two known pathogenic DES variants (p.(R406W), p.(R454W)) were associated with characteristic desmin-immunoreactive aggregates in myocardial and/or skeletal biopsy samples. The individual with the novel DES variant p.(Q364H) had a decreased myocardial expression of desmin with absent desmin aggregates in myocardial/skeletal muscle biopsy and presented with familial left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC), a relatively novel phenotype associated with desminopathy. An assessment of the mitochondrial function in four probands heterozygous for a disease-causing DES variant confirmed a decreased metabolic capacity of mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes in myocardial/skeletal muscle specimens, which was in case of myocardial succinate respiration more profound than in other cardiomyopathies. Conclusions: The presence of desminopathy should also be considered in individuals with LVNC, and in the differential diagnosis of mitochondrial diseases.
Keywords: desmin; dilated cardiomyopathy; mitochondrial dysfunction; myopathy; non-ischemic cardiomyopathy; whole exome sequencing.