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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Mar 23;419(4):703-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.02.083. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Biomechanical characterization of a desminopathy in primary human myoblasts.

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Department of Physics, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Heterozygous mutations of the human desmin gene on chromosome 2q35 cause hereditary and sporadic myopathies and cardiomyopathies. The expression of mutant desmin brings about partial disruption of the extra sarcomeric desmin cytoskeleton and abnormal protein aggregation in the sarcoplasm of striated muscle cells. The precise molecular pathways and sequential steps that lead from a desmin gene defect to progressive muscle damage are still unclear. We tested whether mutant desmin changes the biomechanical properties and the intrinsic mechanical stress response of primary cultured myoblasts derived from a patient carrying a heterozygous R350P desmin mutation. Compared to wildtype controls, undifferentiated mutant desmin myoblasts revealed increased cell death and substrate detachment in response to cyclic stretch on flexible membranes. Moreover, magnetic tweezer microrheometry of myoblasts using fibronectin-coated beads showed increased stiffness of diseased cells. Our findings provide the first evidence that altered mechanical properties may contribute to the progressive striated muscle pathology in desminopathies. We postulate that the expression of mutant desmin leads to increased mechanical stiffness, which results in excessive mechanical stress in response to strain and consecutively to increased mechanical vulnerability and damage of muscle cells.

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