Deleting full length titin versus the titin M-band region leads to differential mechanosignaling and cardiac phenotypes


  • M.H. Radke
  • C. Polack
  • M. Methawasin
  • C. Fink
  • H.L. Granzier
  • M. Gotthardt


  • Circulation


  • Circulation 139 (15): 1813-1827


  • BACKGROUND: Titin is a giant elastic protein that spans the half-sarcomere from Z-disk to M-band. It acts as a molecular spring and mechanosensor and has been linked to striated muscle disease. The pathways that govern titin dependent cardiac growth and contribute to disease are diverse and difficult to dissect. METHODS: To study titin deficiency versus dysfunction, we generated and compared striated muscle specific knockouts with progressive postnatal loss of the complete titin protein by removing exon 2 (E2-KO) or an M-band truncation that eliminates proper sarcomeric integration but retains all other functional domains (M1/2-KO). We evaluated cardiac function, cardiomyocyte mechanics, and the molecular basis of the phenotype. RESULTS: Skeletal muscle atrophy with reduced strength, severe sarcomere disassembly, and lethality from 2 weeks of age were shared between the models. Cardiac phenotypes differed considerably: loss of titin leads to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) with combined systolic and diastolic dysfunction - the absence of M-band titin to cardiac atrophy and preserved function. The elastic properties of M-1/2-KO cardiomyocytes are maintained, while passive stiffness is reduced in the E2-KO. In both KOs, we find an increased stress response and increased expression of proteins linked to titin-based mechanotransduction (CryAB, ANKRD1, MLP, FHLs, p42, Camk2d, p62 and Nbr1). Among them, FHL2, and the M-band signaling proteins p62 and Nbr1 are exclusively upregulated in the E2-KO suggesting a role in the differential pathology of titin truncation versus deficiency of the full-length protein. The differential stress response is consistent with truncated titin contributing to the mechanical properties in M1/2-KOs, while low titin levels in E2-KOs lead to reduced titin-based stiffness and increased strain on the remaining titin molecules. CONCLUSIONS: Progressive depletion of titin leads to sarcomere disassembly and atrophy in striated muscle. In the complete knockout, remaining titin molecules experience increased strain, resulting in mechanically induced trophic signaling and eventually DCM. The truncated titin in M1/2-KO helps maintain the passive properties and thus reduces mechanically induced signaling. Together, these findings contribute to the molecular understanding of why titin mutations differentially affect cardiac growth and have implications for genotype-phenotype relations that support a personalized medicine approach to the diverse titinopathies.