Background: Titin truncation variants (TTNtvs) are the most common inheritable risk factor for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease with high morbidity and mortality. The pathogenicity of TTNtvs has been associated with structural localization as A-band variants overlapping myosin heavy chain-binding domains are more pathogenic than I-band variants by incompletely understood mechanisms. Demonstrating why A-band variants are highly pathogenic for DCM could reveal new insights into DCM pathogenesis, titin (TTN) functions, and therapeutic targets.
Methods: We constructed human cardiomyocyte models harboring DCM-associated TTNtvs within A-band and I-band structural domains using induced pluripotent stem cell and CRISPR technologies. We characterized normal TTN isoforms and variant-specific truncation peptides by their expression levels and cardiomyocyte localization using TTN protein gel electrophoresis and immunofluorescence, respectively. Using CRISPR to ablate A-band variant-specific truncation peptides through introduction of a proximal I-band TTNtv, we studied genetic mechanisms in single cardiomyocyte and 3-dimensional, biomimetic cardiac microtissue functional assays. Last, we engineered a full-length TTN protein reporter assay and used next-generation sequencing assays to develop a CRISPR therapeutic for somatic cell genome editing TTNtvs.
Results: An A-band TTNtv dose-dependently impaired cardiac microtissue twitch force, reduced full-length TTN levels, and produced abundant TTN truncation peptides. TTN truncation peptides integrated into nascent myofibril-like structures and impaired myofibrillogenesis. CRISPR ablation of TTN truncation peptides using a proximal I-band TTNtv partially restored cardiac microtissue twitch force deficits. Cardiomyocyte genome editing using SpCas9 and a TTNtv-specific guide RNA restored the TTN protein reading frame, which increased full-length TTN protein levels, reduced TTN truncation peptides, and increased sarcomere function in cardiac microtissue assays.
Conclusions: An A-band TTNtv diminished sarcomere function greater than an I-band TTNtv in proportion to estimated DCM pathogenicity. Although both TTNtvs resulted in full-length TTN haploinsufficiency, only the A-band TTNtv produced TTN truncation peptides that impaired myofibrillogenesis and sarcomere function. CRISPR-mediated reading frame repair of the A-band TTNtv restored functional deficits, and could be adapted as a one-and-done genome editing strategy to target ≈30% of DCM-associated TTNtvs.
Keywords: CRISPR-mediated reading frame repair; TTN; dilated cardiomyopathy; titin truncation variants.