Plectin is a cytoskeletal linker protein that has a dumbbell-like structure with a long central rod and N- and C-terminal globular domains. Mutations in the gene encoding plectin (PLEC1) cause two distinct autosomal recessive subtypes of epidermolysis bullosa (EB): EB simplex with muscular dystrophy (EBS-MD), and EB simplex with pyloric atresia (EBS-PA). Here, we demonstrate that normal human fibroblasts express two different plectin isoforms including full-length and rodless forms of plectin. We performed detailed analysis of plectin expression patterns in six EBS-MD and three EBS-PA patients. In EBS-PA, expression of all plectin domains was found to be markedly attenuated or completely lost; in EBS-MD, the expression of the N- and C-terminal domains of plectin remained detectable, although the expression of rod domains was absent or markedly reduced. Our data suggest that loss of the full-length plectin isoform with residual expression of the rodless plectin isoform leads to EBS-MD, and that complete loss or marked attenuation of full-length and rodless plectin expression underlies the more severe EBS-PA phenotype. These results also clearly account for the majority of EBS-MD PLEC1 mutation restriction within the large exon 31 that encodes the plectin rod domain, whereas EBS-PA PLEC1 mutations are generally outside exon 31.
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