Emerin is a nuclear envelope protein that contributes to genome organization and cell mechanics. Through its N-terminal LEM-domain, emerin interacts with the DNA-binding protein Barrier-to-Autointegration (BAF). Emerin also binds to members of the Linker of the Nucleoskeleton and Cytoskeleton (LINC) complex. Mutations in the gene encoding emerin are responsible for the majority of cases of X-linked Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy (X-EDMD). Most of these mutations lead to an absence of emerin. A few missense and short deletion mutations in the disordered region of emerin are also associated with X-EDMD. More recently, missense and short deletion mutations P22L, ∆K37 and T43I were discovered in emerin LEM-domain, associated with isolated atrial cardiac defects (ACD). Here we reveal which defects, at both molecular and cellular levels, are elicited by these LEM-domain mutations. Whereas DK37 mutation impairs correct folding of the LEM-domain, P22L and T43I have no impact on the 3D structure of emerin. Surprisingly, all three mutants bind to BAF, albeit with a weaker affinity in the case of DK37. In human myofibroblasts derived from a patient’s fibroblasts, emerin ∆K37 is correctly localized at the inner nuclear membrane, but is present at a significantly lower level, indicating that this mutant is abnormally degraded. Moreover, SUN2 is reduced, and cells are defective in producing actin stress fibers when grown on a stiff substrate and after cyclic stretches. Altogether, our data suggest that the main effect of mutation DK37 is to perturb emerin function within the LINC complex in response to a mechanical stress.
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