The EP300/TP53 pathway, a suppressor of the Hippo and canonical WNT pathways, is activated in human hearts with arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy in the absence of overt heart failure

Cardiovasc Res. 2021 Jun 16;cvab197. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvab197. Online ahead of print.


Aim: Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM) is a primary myocardial disease that typically manifests with cardiac arrhythmias, progressive heart failure and sudden cardiac death (SCD). ACM is mainly caused by mutations in genes encoding desmosome proteins. Desmosomes are cell-cell adhesion structures and hubs for mechanosensing and mechanotransduction. The objective was to identify the dysregulated molecular and biological pathways in human ACM in the absence of overt heart failure.

Methods and results: Transcriptomes in the right ventricular endomyocardial biopsy samples from three independent individuals carrying truncating mutations in the DSP gene and 5 control samples were analyzed by RNA-Seq (discovery group). These cases presented with cardiac arrhythmias and had a normal right ventricular function. The RNA-Seq analysis identified ∼5,000 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), which predicted suppression of the Hippo and canonical WNT pathways, among others.Dysregulated genes and pathways, identified by RNA-Seq, were tested for validation in the right and left ventricular tissues from 5 independent autopsy-confirmed ACM cases with defined mutations (validation group), who were victims of SCD and had no history of heart failure. Protein levels and nuclear localization of the cWNT and Hippo pathway transcriptional regulators were reduced in the right and left ventricular validation samples. In contrast, levels of acetyltransferase EP300, known to suppress the Hippo and canonical WNT pathways, were increased and its bona fide target TP53 was acetylated. RNA-Seq data identified apical junction, reflective of cell-cell attachment, as the most disrupted biological pathway, which was corroborated by disrupted desmosomes and intermediate filament structures. Moreover, the DEGs also predicted dysregulation of over a dozen canonical signal transduction pathways, including the Tec kinase and integrin signaling pathways. The changes were associated with increased apoptosis and fibro-adipogenesis in the ACM hearts.

Conclusion: Altered apical junction structures is associated with activation of the EP300-TP53 and suppression of the Hippo/cWNT pathways in human ACM caused by defined mutations in the absence of an overt heart failure. The findings implicate altered mechanotransduction in the pathogenesis of ACM.

Translational perspective: The findings suggest that altered mechanosensing at the cell-cell junction instigates a cascade of molecular events through the activation of acetyltransferase EP300/TP53 and suppression of gene expression through the Hippo/canonical WNT pathways in human arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM) caused by defined mutations. These molecular changes occur early and in the absence of overt heart failure. Consequently, one may envision cell type-specific interventions to target the dysregulated transcriptional, mechanosensing, and mechanotransduction pathways to prevent the evolving phenotype in human ACM.

Keywords: Cardiomyopathy; Gene expression; Hippo pathway; RNA-Sequencing; TP53; WNT pathway.