AIMS: Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a rare genetic condition caused predominantly by mutations within desmosomal genes. The mutation leading to ARVC-5 was recently identified on the island of Newfoundland and caused by the fully penetrant missense mutation p.S358L in TMEM43. Although TMEM43-p.S358L mutation carriers were also found in the USA, Germany, and Denmark, the genetic relationship between North American and European patients and the disease mechanism of this mutation remained to be clarified. METHODS AND RESULTS: We screened 22 unrelated ARVC patients without mutations in desmosomal genes and identified the TMEM43-p.S358L mutation in a German ARVC family. We excluded TMEM43-p.S358L in 22 unrelated patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. The German family shares a common haplotype with those from Newfoundland, USA, and Denmark, suggesting that the mutation originated from a common founder. Examination of 40 control chromosomes revealed an estimated age of 1300-1500 years for the mutation, which proves the European origin of the Newfoundland mutation. Skin fibroblasts from a female and two male mutation carriers were analysed in cell culture using atomic force microscopy and revealed that the cell nuclei exhibit an increased stiffness compared with TMEM43 wild-type controls. CONCLUSION: The German family is not affected by a de novo TMEM43 mutation. It is therefore expected that an unknown number of European families may be affected by the TMEM43-p.S358L founder mutation. Due to its deleterious clinical phenotype, this mutation should be checked in any case of ARVC-related genotyping. It appears that the increased stiffness of the cell nucleus might be related to the massive loss of cardiomyocytes, which is typically found in ventricles of ARVC hearts.
European Heart Journal, 2014, Vol 36, Issue 14, p. 872-881