Mutations in multiple cardiac sarcomeric proteins including myosin heavy chain (MyHC) and cardiac troponin T (cTnT) cause a dominant genetic heart disease, familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (FHC). Patients with mutations in these two genes have quite distinct clinical characteristics. Those with MyHC mutations demonstrate more significant and uniform cardiac hypertrophy and a variable frequency of sudden death. Patients with cTnT mutations generally exhibit mild or no hypertrophy, but a high frequency of sudden death at an early age. To understand the basis for these distinctions and to study the pathogenesis of the disease, we have created transgenic mice expressing a truncated mouse cTnT allele analogous to one found in FHC patients. Mice expressing truncated cTnT at low (< 5%) levels develop cardiomyopathy and their hearts are significantly smaller (18-27%) than wild type. These animals also exhibit significant diastolic dysfunction and milder systolic dysfunction. Animals that express higher levels of transgene protein die within 24 h of birth. Transgenic mouse hearts demonstrate myocellular disarray and have a reduced number of cardiac myocytes that are smaller in size. These studies suggest that multiple cellular mechanisms result in the human disease, which is generally characterized by mild hypertrophy, but, also, frequent sudden death.
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