Buccal Mucosa Cells as a Potential Diagnostic Tool to Study Onset and Progression of Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Dec 21;23(1):57. doi: 10.3390/ijms23010057.


In arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM) pathogenic variants are found in genes encoding desmosomal proteins and in non-desmosomal genes, such as phospholamban (PLN, p.Arg14del variant). Previous research showed that plakoglobin protein levels and localization in the cardiac tissue of ACM patients, and PLN p.Arg14del patients diagnosed with an ACM phenotype, are disturbed. Moreover, the effects of pathogenic variants in desmosomal genes are reflected in non-cardiac tissues like buccal mucosa cells (BMC) which could serve as a promising new and non-invasive tool to support diagnosis. We collected the BMC of 33 ACM patients, 17 PLN p.Arg14del patients and 34 controls, labelled the BMC with anti-plakoglobin antibodies at different concentrations, and scored their membrane labelling. We found that plakoglobin protein levels were significantly reduced in BMC obtained from diagnosed ACM patients and preclinical variant carriers when compared to controls. This effect was independent from age and sex. Moderate to strong correlations were found with the revised 2010 Task Force Criteria score which is commonly used for ACM diagnosis (rs = -0.67, n = 64, p < 0.0001 and rs = -0.71, n = 64, p < 0.0001). In contrast, plakoglobin scores in PLN p.Arg14del patients were comparable to controls (p > 0.209), which suggests differences in underlying etiology. However, for the individual diagnosis of the 'classical' ACM patient, this method might not be discriminative enough to distinguish true patients from variant carriers and controls, because of the high interindividual variability.

Keywords: arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy; buccal mucosa; diagnosis; phospholamban; plakoglobin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / diagnosis*
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / metabolism
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / pathology*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Desmosomes / metabolism
  • Desmosomes / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / metabolism
  • Mouth Mucosa / pathology*
  • gamma Catenin / metabolism


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • gamma Catenin
  • phospholamban