The Location of Disease-Causing DES Variants Determines the Severity of Phenotype and the Morphology of Sarcoplasmic Aggregates

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2022 Aug 16;81(9):746-757. doi: 10.1093/jnen/nlac063.


Desmin (DES) is the main intermediate muscle filament that connects myofibrils individually and with the nucleus, sarcolemma, and organelles. Pathogenic variants of DES cause desminopathy, a disorder affecting the heart and skeletal muscles. We aimed to analyze the clinical features, morphology, and distribution of desmin aggregates in skeletal muscle biopsies of patients with desminopathy and to correlate these findings with the type and location of disease-causing DES variants. This retrospective study included 30 patients from 20 families with molecularly confirmed desminopathy from 2 neuromuscular referral centers. We identified 2 distinct patterns of desmin aggregates: well-demarcated subsarcolemmal aggregates and diffuse aggregates with poorly delimited borders. Pathogenic variants located in the 1B segment and the tail domain of the desmin molecule are more likely to present with early-onset cardiomyopathy compared to patients with variants in other segments. All patients with mutations in the 1B segment had well-demarcated subsarcolemmal aggregates, but none of the patients with variants in other desmin segments showed such histological features. We suggest that variants located in the 1B segment lead to well-shaped subsarcolemmal desmin aggregation and cause disease with more frequent cardiac manifestations. These findings will facilitate early identification of patients with potentially severe cardiac syndromes.

Keywords: Desmin; Desmin-related myopathy; Desminopathy; Myofibrillar myopathy.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathies* / genetics
  • Cardiomyopathies* / pathology
  • Desmin / genetics
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Desmin