Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a highly heterogeneous trait with sarcomeric gene mutations predominating. The cause of a substantial percentage of DCMs remains unknown, and no gene-specific therapy is available. On the basis of resequencing of 513 DCM cases and 1,150 matched controls from various cohorts of distinct ancestry, we discovered rare, functional RAF1 mutations in 3 of the cohorts (South Indian, North Indian and Japanese). The prevalence of RAF1 mutations was 1/49% in childhood-onset DCM cases in these three cohorts. Biochemical studies showed that DCM-associated RAF1 mutants had altered kinase activity, resulting in largely unaltered ERK activation but in AKT that was hyperactivated in a BRAF-dependent manner. Constitutive expression of these mutants in zebrafish embryos resulted in a heart failure phenotype with AKT hyperactivation that was rescued by treatment with rapamycin. These findings provide new mechanistic insights and potential therapeutic targets for RAF1-associated DCM and further expand the clinical spectrum of RAF1-related human disorders.
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