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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions     A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®


Reviewed January 2011

What is the official name of the DES gene?

The official name of this gene is “desmin.”

DES is the gene's official symbol. The DES gene is also known by other names, listed below.

What is the normal function of the DES gene?

The DES gene provides instructions for making a protein called desmin. Desmin is found in heart (cardiac) muscle and muscles used for movement (skeletal muscle). Within muscle fibers, desmin proteins are important to help maintain the structure of sarcomeres, which are necessary for muscles to tense (contract). The desmin proteins surround rod-like structures called Z-discs that are located within the sarcomere. Desmin connects the Z-discs to one another, linking neighboring sarcomeres and forming myofibrils, the basic unit of muscle fibers. The connection of sarcomeres to each other to form myofibrils is essential for maintaining muscle fiber strength during repeated cycles of contraction and relaxation.

How are changes in the DES gene related to health conditions?

myofibrillar myopathy - caused by mutations in the DES gene

More than 40 mutations in the DES gene have been found to cause myofibrillar myopathy. Most of these mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in desmin. Mutated desmin proteins cluster together with other muscle proteins in the sarcomere to form clumps (aggregates). The aggregates prevent these proteins from functioning normally. A dysfunctional desmin protein cannot properly interact with Z-discs, leading to abnormalities of sarcomere structure and problems with the formation of myofibrils. DES gene mutations that cause myofibrillar myopathy impair the function of muscle fibers, causing weakness and the other features of this condition. People with DES gene mutations are more likely to have a weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) than people with myofibrillar myopathy caused by mutations in other genes. In some cases, cardiomyopathy is the first symptom of this condition.

other disorders - caused by mutations in the DES gene

Mutations in the DES gene also cause a form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy type 1I. This condition enlarges (dilates) and weakens the cardiac muscle, preventing it from pumping blood efficiently. DES gene mutations have also been shown to cause another form of cardiomyopathy called restrictive cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle is stiff and cannot fully relax after each contraction. Although cardiomyopathy is a sign of myofibrillar myopathy, these forms of cardiomyopathy are not associated with weakness of the skeletal muscles.

Mutations in the DES gene can also cause an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), which may lead to heart failure and sudden death.

Researchers are not certain why some mutations in the DES gene cause these heart problems instead of myofibrillar myopathy.

Where is the DES gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 2q35

Molecular Location on chromosome 2: base pairs 219,418,377 to 219,426,739

The DES gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 2 at position 35.

The DES gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 2 at position 35.

More precisely, the DES gene is located from base pair 219,418,377 to base pair 219,426,739 on chromosome 2.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? ( in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about DES?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about DES helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the DES gene or gene products?


See How are genetic conditions and genes named? ( in the Handbook.

What glossary definitions help with understanding DES?

acids ; arrhythmia ; cardiac ; cardiomyopathy ; contraction ; dilated ; familial ; gene ; heart failure ; myofibrils ; protein ; sarcomere ; sign ; skeletal muscle ; symptom

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.


  • Claeys KG, van der Ven PF, Behin A, Stojkovic T, Eymard B, Dubourg O, Laforêt P, Faulkner G, Richard P, Vicart P, Romero NB, Stoltenburg G, Udd B, Fardeau M, Voit T, Fürst DO. Differential involvement of sarcomeric proteins in myofibrillar myopathies: a morphological and immunohistochemical study. Acta Neuropathol. 2009 Mar;117(3):293-307. doi: 10.1007/s00401-008-0479-7. Epub 2009 Jan 17. (
  • Ferrer I, Olivé M. Molecular pathology of myofibrillar myopathies. Expert Rev Mol Med. 2008 Sep 3;10:e25. doi: 10.1017/S1462399408000793. Review. (
  • Goldfarb LG, Dalakas MC. Tragedy in a heartbeat: malfunctioning desmin causes skeletal and cardiac muscle disease. J Clin Invest. 2009 Jul;119(7):1806-13. doi: 10.1172/JCI38027. Epub 2009 Jul 1. Review. Erratum in: J Clin Invest. 2011 Jan 4;121(1):455. (
  • NCBI Gene (
  • Schröder R, Schoser B. Myofibrillar myopathies: a clinical and myopathological guide. Brain Pathol. 2009 Jul;19(3):483-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.2009.00289.x. Review. (
  • van Spaendonck-Zwarts KY, van Hessem L, Jongbloed JD, de Walle HE, Capetanaki Y, van der Kooi AJ, van Langen IM, van den Berg MP, van Tintelen JP. Desmin-related myopathy. Clin Genet. 2011 Oct;80(4):354-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0004.2010.01512.x. Epub 2010 Jul 21. Review. (


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Reviewed: January 2011
Published: November 23, 2015