Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) is a hereditary cardiomyopathy that causes sudden death in the young. We found a line of mice with inherited right ventricular dysplasia (RVD) caused by a mutation of the gene laminin receptor 1 (Lamr1). This locus contained an intron-processed retroposon that was transcribed in the mice with RVD. Introduction of a mutated Lamr1 gene into normal mice by breeding or by direct injection caused susceptibility to RVD, which was similar to that seen in the RVD mice. An in vitro study of cardiomyocytes expressing the product of mutated Lamr1 showed early cell death accompanied by alteration of the chromatin architecture. We found that heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) bound specifically to mutant LAMR1. HP1 is a dynamic regulator of heterochromatin sites, suggesting that mutant LAMR1 impairs a crucial process of transcriptional regulation. Indeed, mutant LAMR1 caused specific changes to gene expression in cardiomyocytes, as detected by gene chip analysis. Thus, we concluded that products of the Lamr1 retroposon interact with HP1 to cause degeneration of cardiomyocytes. This mechanism may also contribute to the etiology of human ARVD.
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