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Plakophilin-2 Haploinsufficiency Causes Calcium Handling Deficits and Modulates the Cardiac Response Towards Stress

van Opbergen, CJM;Noorman, M;Pfenniger, A;Copier, JS;Vermij, SH;Li, Z;van der Nagel, R;Zhang, M;de Bakker, JMT;Glass, AM;Mohler, PJ;Taffet, SM;Vos, MA;van Rijen, HVM;Delmar, M;van Veen, TAB;

Human variants in plakophilin-2 (PKP2) associate with most cases of familial arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM). Recent studies show that PKP2 not only maintains intercellular coupling, but also regulates transcription of genes involved in Ca2+ cycling and cardiac rhythm. ACM penetrance is low and it remains uncertain, which genetic and environmental modifiers are crucial for developing the cardiomyopathy. In this study, heterozygous PKP2 knock-out mice (PKP2-Hz) were used to investigate the influence of exercise, pressure overload, and inflammation on a PKP2-related disease progression. In PKP2-Hz mice, protein levels of Ca2+-handling proteins were reduced compared to wildtype (WT). PKP2-Hz hearts exposed to voluntary exercise training showed right ventricular lateral connexin43 expression, right ventricular conduction slowing, and a higher susceptibility towards arrhythmias. Pressure overload increased levels of fibrosis in PKP2-Hz hearts, without affecting the susceptibility towards arrhythmias. Experimental autoimmune myocarditis caused more severe subepicardial fibrosis, cell death, and inflammatory infiltrates in PKP2-Hz hearts than in WT. To conclude, PKP2 haploinsufficiency in the murine heart modulates the cardiac response to environmental modifiers via different mechanisms. Exercise upon PKP2 deficiency induces a pro-arrhythmic cardiac remodeling, likely based on impaired Ca2+ cycling and electrical conduction, versus structural remodeling. Pathophysiological stimuli mainly exaggerate the fibrotic and inflammatory response.