First published September 12, 2019 - More info
Myocardin (MYOCD) is the founding member of a class of transcriptional co-activators that bind serum response factor to activate gene expression programs critical in smooth muscle (SM) and cardiac muscle development. Insights into the molecular functions of MYOCD have been obtained from cell culture studies and, to date, knowledge about in vivo roles of MYOCD comes exclusively from experimental animals. Here, we defined an often lethal congenital human disease associated with inheritance of pathogenic MYOCD variants. This disease manifested as a massively dilated urinary bladder, or megabladder, with disrupted SM in its wall. We provided evidence that monoallelic loss-of-function variants in MYOCD caused congenital megabladder in males only, whereas biallelic variants were associated with disease in both sexes, with a phenotype additionally involving the cardiovascular system. These results were supported by co-segregation of MYOCD variants with the phenotype in four unrelated families, by in vitro transactivation studies where pathogenic variants resulted in abrogated SM gene expression, and finding megabladder in two distinct mouse models with reduced Myocd activity. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that variants in MYOCD result in human disease, and the collective findings highlight a vital role for MYOCD in mammalian organogenesis.