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1.  Signaling by S-Nitrosylation in the Heart 
Nitric oxide is a gaseous signaling molecule that is well-known for the Nobel prize-winning research that defined nitric oxide as a physiological regulator of blood pressure in the cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide can signal via the classical pathway involving activation of guanylyl cyclase or by a post-translational modification, referred to as S-nitrosylation (SNO) that can occur on cysteine residues of proteins. As proteins with cysteine residues are common, this allows for amplification of the nitric oxide signaling. This review will focus on the possible mechanisms through which SNO can alter protein function in cardiac cells, and the role of SNO occupancy in these mechanisms. The specific mechanisms that regulate protein SNO, including redox-dependent processes, will also be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4214076  PMID: 24440455
2.  Monoamine oxidases as sources of oxidants in the heart 
Oxidative stress can be generated at several sites within the mitochondria. Among these, monoamine oxidases (MAO) have been described as a prominent source. MAO are mitochondrial flavoenzymes responsible for the oxidative deamination of catecholamines, serotonin and biogenic amines, and during this process they generate H2O2 and aldehyde intermediates. The role of MAO in cardiovascular pathophysiology has only recently gathered some attention since it has been demonstrated that both H2O2 and aldehydes may target mitochondrial function and consequently affect function and viability of the myocardium. In the present review, we will discuss the role of MAO in catecholamine and serotonin clearance and cycling in relation to cardiac structure and function. The relevant contribution of each MAO isoform (MAO-A or -B) will be discussed in relation to mitochondrial dysfunction and myocardial injury. Finally, we will examine both beneficial effects of their pharmacological or genetic inhibition along with potential adverse effects observed at baseline in MAO knockout mice, as well as the deleterious effects following their over-expression specifically at cardiomyocyte level.
PMCID: PMC4048760  PMID: 24412580
monoamine oxidase; oxidative stress; mitochondrial dysfunction; heart failure; ischemia/reperfusion injury
3.  An overview of mechanisms of redox signaling 
A principal characteristic of redox signaling is that it involves an oxidation-reduction reaction or covalent adduct formation between the sensor signaling protein and second messenger. Non-redox signaling may involve alteration of the second messenger as in hydrolysis of GTP by G proteins, modification of the signaling protein as in farnesylation, or simple non-covalent binding of an agonist or second messenger. The chemistry of redox signaling is reviewed here. Specifically we have described how among the so-called reactive oxygen species, only hydroperoxides clearly fit the role of a second messenger. Consideration of reaction kinetics and cellular location strongly suggests that for hydroperoxides, particular protein cysteines are the targets and that the requirements for redox signaling is that these cysteines are in microenvironments in which the cysteine is ionized to the thiolate, and a proton can be donated to form a leaving group. The chemistry described here is the same as occurs in the cysteine and selenocysteine peroxidases that are generally considered the primary defense against oxidative stress. But, these same enzymes can also act as the sensors and transducer for signaling. Conditions that would allow specific signaling by peroxynitrite and superoxide are also defined. Signaling by other electrophiles, which includes lipid peroxidation products, quinones formed from polyphenols and other metabolites also involves reaction with specific protein thiolates. Again, kinetics and location are the primary determinants that provide specificity required for physiological signaling although enzymatic catalysis is not likely involved.
PMCID: PMC4048798  PMID: 24512843
reactive oxygen species; 4-hydroxynonenal; peroxidases; hydrogen peroxide; hydroperoxide; signal transduction
4.  CaMKII oxidative activation and the pathogenesis of cardiac disease 
Calcium and redox signaling both play important roles in the pathogenesis of cardiac disease; although how these signals are integrated in the heart remains unclear. One putative sensor for both calcium and oxidative stress in the heart is CaMKII, a calcium activated kinase that has recently been shown to also be regulated by oxidation. Oxidative activation of CaMKII occurs in several models of cardiac disease, including myocardial injury and inflammation, excessive neurohumoral activation, atrial fibrillation, and sinus node dysfunction. Additionally, oxidative activation of CaMKII is suggested in subcellular domains where calcium and ROS signaling intersect, such as mitochondria. This review describes the mechanism of activation of CAMKII by oxidation, the cardiac diseases where oxidized CaMKII has been identified, and suggests contexts where oxidized CaMKII is likely to play an important role.
PMCID: PMC4048820  PMID: 24530899
Ca2+/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II; Reactive oxygen species; Heart failure; Arrhythmia; Calcium; mitochondria
5.  A translational study of urine miRNAs in acute myocardial infarction 
The currently used biomarkers for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) are blood creatinine phosphokinase-muscle band (CPK-MB), troponin-T (TnT), and troponin I (TnI). However, no good biomarkers are identified in urine after AMI, because these blood protein biomarkers are difficult to be filtered into urine. In this study, the role of urine microRNAs in the diagnosis of AMI and the mechanism involved were determined. We found that urine miR-1 was quickly increased in rats after AMI with peak at 24 h after AMI, in which an over 50-fold increase was demonstrated. At 7 days after AMI, the urine miR-1 level was returned to the basal level. No miR-208 was found in normal urine. In urine from rats with AMI, miR-208 was easily detected. To determine the mechanism involved, we determined the levels of heart-released miR-1 in the liver, spleen and kidney after AMI in rats and found that the kidney was an important metabolic organ. To determine the renal elimination of blood miRNAs, we isolated serum exosomes from rats after AMI and injected these exosomes into the circulating blood of normal rats. We found that the urine miR-1 was significantly increased in exosome-injected animals. Moreover, PKH67-labeled exosomes injected into circulating blood could enter into the kidney tissues and cells, as well as urine. Furthermore, the levels of urine miR-1 were significantly increased in patients with AMI. The results suggest that urine miRNAs such as miR-1 could be novel urine biomarkers for AMI.
PMCID: PMC4492106  PMID: 22921780
Acute myocardial infarction; microRNA; miR-1; miR-208; Urine; Biomarker
6.  MAFbx/Atrogin-1 is required for atrophic remodeling of the unloaded heart 
Mechanical unloading of the failing human heart induces profound cardiac changes resulting in the reversal of a distorted structure and function. In this process, cardiomyocytes break down unneeded proteins and replace those with new ones. The specificity of protein degradation via the ubiquitin proteasome system is regulated by ubiquitin ligases. Over-expressing the ubiquitin ligase MAFbx/Atrogin-1 in the heart inhibits the development of cardiac hypertrophy, but the role of MAFbx/Atrogin-1 in the unloaded heart is not known.
Methods and Results
Mechanical unloading, by heterotopic transplantation, decreased heart weight and cardiomyocyte cross-sectional area in wild type mouse hearts. Unexpectedly, MAFbx/Atrogin-1−/− hearts hypertrophied after transplantation (n=8–10). Proteasome activity and markers of autophagy were increased to the same extent in WT and MAFbx/Atrogin-1−/− hearts after transplantation (unloading). Calcineurin, a regulator of cardiac hypertrophy, was only upregulated in MAFbx/Atrogin-1−/− transplanted hearts, while the mTOR pathway was similarly activated in unloaded WT and MAFbx/Atrogin-1−/− hearts. MAFbx/Atrogin-1−/− cardiomyocytes exhibited increased calcineurin protein expression, NFAT transcriptional activity, and protein synthesis rates, while inhibition of calcineurin normalized NFAT activity and protein synthesis. Lastly, mechanical unloading of failing human hearts with a left ventricular assist device (n=18) also increased MAFbx/Atrogin-1 protein levels and expression of NFAT regulated genes.
MAFbx/Atrogin-1 is required for atrophic remodeling of the heart. During unloading, MAFbx/Atrogin-1 represses calcineurin-induced cardiac hypertrophy. Therefore, MAFbx/Atrogin-1 not only regulates protein degradation, but also reduces protein synthesis, exerting a dual role in regulating cardiac mass.
PMCID: PMC4037330  PMID: 24650875
MAFbx/Atrogin-1; atrophic remodeling; heterotopic heart transplantation; protein turnover; heart assist device
7.  Ventricular Myosin Modifies In Vitro Step-Size When Phosphorylated 
Cardiac and skeletal muscle myosins have the central role in contraction transducing ATP free energy into the mechanical work of moving actin. Myosin has a motor domain containing ATP and actin binding sites and a lever-arm that undergoes rotation impelling bound actin. The lever-arm converts torque generated in the motor into the linear displacement known as step-size. The myosin lever-arm is stabilized by bound essential and regulatory light chains (ELC and RLC). RLC phosphorylation at S15 is linked to modified lever-arm mechanical characteristics contributing to myosin filament based contraction regulation and to the response of the muscle to disease. Myosin step-size was measured using a novel quantum dot (Qdot) assay that previously confirmed a 5 nm step-size for fast skeletal myosin and multiple unitary steps, most frequently 5 and 8 nm, and a rare 3 nm displacement for β cardiac myosin (βMys). S15 phosphorylation in βMys is now shown to change step-size distribution by advancing the 8 nm step frequency. After phosphorylation, the 8 nm step is the dominant myosin step-size resulting in significant gain in the average step-size. An increase in myosin step-size will increase the amount of work produced per ATPase cycle. The results indicate that RLC phosphorylation modulates work production per ATPase cycle suggesting the mechanism for contraction regulation by the myosin filament.
PMCID: PMC4037356  PMID: 24726887
ventricular myosin step-size; Qdot assay; cardiac myosin RLC phosphorylation; actin-activated ATPase; in vitro motility
8.  GLUT1 Deficiency in Cardiomyocytes Does not Accelerate the Transition from Compensated Hypertrophy to Heart Failure 
To determine whether endogenous GLUT1 induction and the increased glucose utilization that accompanies pressure overload hypertrophy (POH) are required to maintain cardiac function during hemodynamic stress, and to test the hypothesis that lack of GLUT1 will accelerate the transition to heart failure.
Methods and Results
To determine the contribution of endogenous GLUT1 to the cardiac adaptation to POH, male mice with cardiomyocyte-restricted deletion of the GLUT1 gene (G1KO) and their littermate controls (Cont) were subjected to transverse aortic constriction (TAC). GLUT1 deficiency reduced glycolysis and glucose oxidation by 50%, which was associated with a reciprocal increase in fatty acid oxidation (FAO) relative to controls. Four weeks after TAC, glycolysis increased and FAO decreased by 50% in controls, but were unchanged in G1KO hearts relative to shams. G1KO and controls exhibited equivalent degrees of cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, and capillary density loss after TAC. Following TAC, in vivo left ventricular developed pressure was reduced in G1KO hearts relative to controls, but +dP/dt was equivalently reduced in Cont and G1KO mice following TAC. Mitochondrial function was equivalently impaired following TAC in both Cont and G1KO hearts.
GLUT1 deficiency in cardiomyocytes alters myocardial substrate utilization, but does not substantially exacerbate pressure-overload induced contractile dysfunction or accelerate the progression to heart failure.
PMCID: PMC4037364  PMID: 24583251
Cardiac hypertrophy; glucose transport and cardiac metabolism
9.  β-Adrenergic Receptor-Mediated Transactivation Of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Decreases Cardiomyocyte Apoptosis Through Differential Subcellular Activation of ERK1/2 and Akt 
β-adrenergic receptor (βAR)-mediated transactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been shown to relay pro-survival effects via unknown mechanisms.
We hypothesized that acute βAR-mediated EGFR transactivation in the heart promotes differential subcellular activation of ERK1/2 and Akt, promoting cell survival through modulation of apoptosis.
Methods and Results
C57BL/6 mice underwent acute i.p. injection with isoproterenol (ISO) ± AG 1478 (EGFR antagonist) to assess the impact of βAR-mediated EGFR transactivation on phosphorylation of ERK1/2 (P-ERK1/2) and Akt (P-Akt) in distinct cardiac subcellular fractions. Increased P-ERK1/2 and P-Akt were observed in cytosolic, plasma membrane and nuclear fractions following ISO stimulation. Whereas the P-ERK1/2 response was EGFR-sensitive in all fractions, the P-Akt response was EGFR-sensitive only in the plasma membrane and nucleus, results confirmed in primary rat neonatal cardiomyocytes (RNCM). βAR-mediated EGFR-transactivation also decreased apoptosis in serum-depleted RNCM, as measured via TUNEL as well as caspase 3 activity/cleavage, which were sensitive to inhibition of either ERK1/2 (PD184352) or Akt (LY-294002) signaling. Caspase 3 activity/cleavage was also sensitive to inhibition of transcription, which, with an increase in nuclear P-ERK1/2 and P-Akt in response to ISO, suggested that βAR-mediated EGFR transactivation may regulate apoptotic gene transcription. An Apoptosis PCR Array identified tnfsf10 (TRAIL) to be altered by ISO in an EGFR-sensitive manner, results confirmed via RT-PCR and ELISA measurement of both membrane-bound and soluble cardiomyocyte TRAIL levels.
βAR-mediated EGFR transactivation induces differential subcellular activation of ERK1/2 and Akt leading to increased cell survival through the modulation of caspase 3 activity and apoptotic gene expression in cardiomyocytes.
PMCID: PMC4037368  PMID: 24566221
β-adrenergic receptor; cardiomyocyte; epidermal growth factor receptor; apoptosis
10.  Transmural heterogeneity of cellular level power output is reduced in human heart failure 
Heart failure is associated with pump dysfunction and remodeling but it is not yet known if the condition affects different transmural regions of the heart in the same way. We tested the hypotheses that the left ventricles of non-failing human hearts exhibit transmural heterogeneity of cellular level contractile properties, and that heart failure produces transmural region-specific changes in contractile function.
Permeabilized samples were prepared from the sub-epicardial, mid-myocardial, and sub-endocardial regions of the left ventricular free wall of non-failing (n=6) and failing (n=10) human hearts. Power, an in vitro index of systolic function, was higher in non-failing mid-myocardial samples (0.59±0.06 μW mg−1) than in samples from the sub-epicardium (p=0.021) and the sub-endocardium (p=0.015). Non-failing mid-myocardial samples also produced more isometric force (14.3±1.33 kN m−2) than samples from the sub-epicardium (p=0.008) and the sub-endocardium (p=0.026). Heart failure reduced power (p=0.009) and force (p=0.042) but affected the mid-myocardium more than the other transmural regions. Fibrosis increased with heart failure (p=0.021) and mid-myocardial tissue from failing hearts contained more collagen than matched sub-epicardial (p<0.001) and sub-endocardial (p=0.043) samples. Power output was correlated with the relative content of actin and troponin I, and was also statistically linked to the relative content and phosphorylation of desmin and myosin light chain- 1. Non-failing human hearts exhibit transmural heterogeneity of contractile properties. In failing organs, region-specific fibrosis produces the greatest contractile deficits in the mid-myocardium. Targeting fibrosis and sarcomeric proteins in the mid-myocardium may be particularly effective therapies for heart failure.
PMCID: PMC4037376  PMID: 24560668
Left ventricular function; Mechanics; Collagen; Sarcomere; Myofilament Protein
11.  Nox2 mediates high fat high sucrose diet-induced nitric oxide dysfunction and inflammation in aortic smooth muscle cells 
Diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome are important contributors to cardiovascular diseases. The decreased nitric oxide (NO) bioactivity in endothelium and the impaired response of smooth muscle cell (SMC) to NO significantly contribute to vascular pathologies, including atherosclerosis and arterial restenosis after angioplasty. Sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA) is an important mediator of NO function in both endothelial cells and SMCs, and its irreversible oxidation impair its stimulation by NO. We used C57BL/6J mice fed a high fat, high sucrose diet (HFHSD) to study the role of SMC SERCA in diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome. We found that HFHSD upregulated Nox2 based NADPH oxidase, induced inflammation, increased irreversible SERCA oxidation, and suppressed the response of aortic SERCA to NO. Cultured aortic SMCs from mice fed HFHSD showed increased reactive oxygen species production, Nox2 upregulation, irreversible SERCA oxidation, inflammation, and a decreased ability of NO to inhibit SMC migration. Overexpression of wild type SERCA2b or downregulation of Nox2 restored NO-mediated inhibition of migration in SMCs isolated from HFHSD-fed mice. In addition, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) increased Nox2 which induced SERCA oxidation and inflammation. Taken together, Nox2 induced by HFHSD plays significant roles in controlling SMC responses to NO and TNFα-mediated inflammation, which may contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases in diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4037381  PMID: 24631774
Nox2; nitric oxide; smooth muscle cell; sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase; high fat high sucrose diet
12.  Differential effects of S100 proteins A2 and A6 on cardiac Ca2+ cycling and contractile performance 
Defective intracellular calcium (Ca2+) handling is implicated in the pathogenesis of heart failure. Novel approaches targeting both cardiac Ca2+ release and reuptake processes, such as S100A1, have the potential to rescue the function of failing cardiac myocytes. Here, we show that two members of the S100 Ca2+ binding protein family, S100A2 and S100A6 that share high sequence homology, differentially influence cardiac Ca2+ handling and contractility. Cardiac gene expression of S100A2 significantly enhanced both contractile and relaxation performance of rodent and canine cardiac myocytes, mimicking the functional effects of its cardiac homologue, S100A1. To interrogate mechanism, Ca2+ spark frequency, a measure of the gating of the ryanodine receptor Ca2+ release channel, was found to be significantly increased by S100A2. Therapeutic testing showed that S100A2 rescued the contractile defects of failing cardiac myocytes. In contrast, cardiac expression of S100A6 had no significant effects on contractility or Ca2+ handling. These data reveal novel differential effects of S100 proteins on cardiac myocyte performance that may be useful in application to diseased cardiac muscle.
PMCID: PMC4041381  PMID: 24631772
S100 proteins; Cardiac calcium handling; Excitation-contraction coupling; Heart failure; Gene therapy
13.  Tri-iodo-L-thyronine Promotes the Maturation of Human Cardiomyocytes-Derived from Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
Cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) have great potential as a cell source for therapeutic applications such as regenerative medicine, disease modeling, drug screening, and toxicity testing. This potential is limited, however, by the immature state of the cardiomyocytes acquired using current protocols. Tri-iodo-L-thyronine (T3) is a growth hormone that is essential for optimal heart growth. In this study, we investigated the effect of T3 on hiPSC-CM maturation.
Methods and Results
A one-week treatment with T3 increased cardiomyocyte size, anisotropy, and sarcomere length. T3 treatment was associated with reduced cell cycle activity, manifest as reduced DNA synthesis and increased expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21. Contractile force analyses were performed on individual cardiomyocytes using arrays of microposts, revealing an almost two-fold higher force per-beat after T3 treatment and also an enhancement in contractile kinetics. This improvement in force generation was accompanied by an increase in rates of calcium release and reuptake, along with a significant increase in sarcoendoplasmic reticulum ATPase expression. Finally, although mitochondrial genomes were not numerically increased, extracellular flux analysis showed a significant increase in maximal mitochondrial respiratory capacity and respiratory reserve capability after T3 treatment.
Using a broad spectrum of morphological, molecular, and functional parameters, we conclude that T3 is a driver for hiPSC-CM maturation. T3 treatment may enhance the utility of hiPSC-CMs for therapy, disease modeling, or drug/toxicity screens.
PMCID: PMC4041732  PMID: 24735830
Human induced pluripotent stem cells-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs); Cardiomyocyte maturation; Tri-iodo-L-thyronine; Contractile force; Mitochondria
14.  Cell-based Delivery of dATP Via Gap Junctions Enhances Cardiac Contractility 
The transplantation of human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) is a promising strategy to treat myocardial infarction and reverse heart failure, but to date the contractile benefit in most studies remains modest. We have previously shown that the nucleotide 2-deoxyadenosine triphosphate (dATP) can substitute for ATP as the energy substrate for cardiac myosin, and increasing cellular dATP content by globally overexpressing ribonucleotide reductase (R1R2) can dramatically enhance cardiac contractility. Because dATP is a small molecule, we hypothesized that it would diffuse readily between cells via gap junctions and enhance the contractility of neighboring coupled wild type cells. To test this hypothesis, we performed studies with the goals of (1) validating gap junction-mediated dATP transfer in vitro and (2) investigating the use of R1R2-overexpressing hPSC-CMs in vivo as a novel strategy to increase cardiac function. We first performed intracellular dye transfer studies using dATP conjugated to fluorescein and demonstrated rapid gap junction-mediated transfer between cardiomyocytes. We then cocultured wild type cardiomyocytes with either cardiomyocytes or fibroblasts overexpressing R1R2 and saw more than a twofold increase in the extent and rate of contraction of wild type cardiomyocytes. Finally, we transplanted hPSC-CMs overexpressing R1R2 into healthy uninjured rat hearts and noted an increase in fractional shortening from 41±4% to 53±5% just five days after cell transplantation. These findings demonstrate that dATP is an inotropic factor that spreads between cells via gap junctions. Our data suggest that transplantation of dATP-producing hPSC-CMs could significantly increase the effectiveness of cardiac cell therapy.
PMCID: PMC4073675  PMID: 24780238
cardiac cell therapy; ribonucleotide reductase; dATP; cardiac regeneration; gap junction intercellular communication; inotropy; stem cells
15.  Remodeling of the Sarcomeric Cytoskeleton in Cardiac Ventricular Myocytes during Heart Failure and after Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy 
Sarcomeres are the basic contractile units of cardiac myocytes. Recent studies demonstrated remodeling of sarcomeric proteins in several diseases, including genetic defects and heart failure. Here we investigated remodeling of sarcomeric α-actinin in two models of heart failure, synchronous (SHF) and dyssynchronous heart failure (DHF), as well as a model of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). We applied three-dimensional confocal microscopy and quantitative methods of image analysis to study isolated cells from our animal models. 3D Fourier analysis revealed a decrease of the spatial regularity of the α-actinin distribution in both SHF and DHF versus control cells. The spatial regularity of α-actinin in DHF cells was reduced when compared with SHF cells. The spatial regularity of α-actinin was partially restored after CRT. We found longitudinal depositions of α-actinin in SHF, DHF and CRT cells. These depositions spanned adjacent Z-disks and exhibited a lower density of α-actinin than in the Z-disk. Differences in the occurrence of depositions between the SHF, CRT and DHF models versus control were significant. Also, CRT cells exhibited a higher occurrence of depositions versus SHF, but not DHF cells. Other sarcomeric proteins did not accumulate in the depositions to the same extent as α-actinin. We did not find differences in the expression of α-actinin protein and its encoding gene in our animal models. In summary, our studies indicate that HF is associated with two different types of remodeling of α-actinin and only one of those was reversed after CRT. We suggest that these results can guide us to an understanding of remodeling of structures and function associated with sarcomeres.
PMCID: PMC4077200  PMID: 24657727
Heart failure; cardiac resynchronization therapy; remodeling; cardiac recovery; alpha actinin
16.  Phenotypic screen quantifying differential regulation of cardiac myocyte hypertrophy identifies CITED4 regulation of myocyte elongation 
Cardiac hypertrophy is controlled by a highly connected signaling network with many effectors of cardiac myocyte size. Quantification of the contribution of individual pathways to specific changes in shape and transcript abundance is needed to better understand hypertrophy signaling and to improve heart failure therapies. We stimulated cardiac myocytes with 15 hypertrophic agonists and quantitatively characterized differential regulation of 5 shape features using high-throughput microscopy and transcript levels of 12 genes using qPCR. Transcripts measured were associated with phenotypes including fibrosis, cell death, contractility, proliferation, angiogenesis, inflammation, and the fetal cardiac gene program. While hypertrophy pathways are highly connected, the agonist screen revealed distinct hypertrophy phenotypic signatures for the 15 receptor agonists. We then used k-means clustering of inputs and outputs to identify a network map linking input modules to output modules. Five modules were identified within inputs and outputs with many maladaptive outputs grouping together in one module: Bax, C/EBPβ, Serca2a, TNFα, and CTGF. Subsequently, we identified mechanisms underlying two correlations revealed in the agonist screen: correlation between regulators of fibrosis and cell death signaling (CTGF and Bax mRNA) caused by AngII; and myocyte proliferation (CITED4 mRNA) and elongation caused by Nrg1. Follow-up experiments revealed positive regulation of Bax mRNA level by CTGF and an incoherent feedforward loop linking Nrg1, CITED4 and elongation. With this agonist screen, we identified the most influential inputs in the cardiac hypertrophy signaling network for a variety of features related to pathological and protective hypertrophy signaling and shared regulation among cardiac myocyte phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4078663  PMID: 24613264
cardiac hypertrophy; phenotypic screen; cardiac myocytes; signal transduction; CTGF; CITED4
17.  Genetic Manipulation of The Cardiac Mitochondrial Phosphate Carrier does not affect Permeability Transition 
The Mitochondrial Permeability Transition (MPT) pore is a voltage-sensitive unselective channel known to instigate necrotic cell death during cardiac disease. Recent models suggest that the isomerase cyclophilin D (CypD) regulates the MPT pore by binding to either the F0F1-ATP synthase lateral stalk or the mitochondrial phosphate carrier (PiC). Here we confirm that CypD, through its N-terminus, can directly bind PiC. We then generated cardiac-specific mouse strains overexpressing or with decreased levels of mitochondrial PiC to assess the functionality of such interaction. While PiC overexpression had no observable pathologic phenotype, PiC knockdown resulted in cardiac hypertrophy along with decreased ATP levels. Mitochondria isolated from hearts of these mouse lines and their respective non-transgenic controls had no divergent phenotype in terms of oxygen consumption and Ca2+-induced MPT, as assessed by swelling and Ca2+-retention measurements. These results provide genetic evidence indicating that the mitochondrial PiC is not a critical component of the MPT pore.
PMCID: PMC4080311  PMID: 24768964
Mitochondrial permeability transition; mouse genetics; cyclophilin-D; mitochondrial phosphate carrier
18.  Combined Troponin I Ser-150 and Ser-23/24 Phosphorylation Sustains Thin Filament Ca2+ Sensitivity and Accelerates Deactivation in an Acidic Environment* 
The binding of Ca2+ to troponin C (TnC) in the troponin complex is a critical step regulating the thin filament, the actin-myosin interaction and cardiac contraction. Phosphorylation of the troponin complex is a key regulatory mechanism to match cardiac contraction to demand. Here we demonstrate phosphorylation of the troponin I (TnI) subunit is simultaneously increased at Ser-150 and Ser-23/24 during in vivo myocardial ischemia. Myocardial ischemia decreases intracellular pH resulting in depressed binding of Ca2+ to TnC and impaired contraction. To determine the pathological relevance of simultaneous TnI phosphorylation we measured individual TnI Ser-150 (S150D), Ser-23/24 (S23/24D) and combined (S23/24/150D) pseudo-phosphorylation effects on thin filament regulation at acidic pH similar to that in myocardial ischemia. Results demonstrate that while acidic pH decreased thin filament Ca2+ binding to TnC regardless of TnI composition, TnI S150D attenuated this decrease rendering it similar to non-phosphorylated TnI at normal pH. The dissociation of Ca2+ from TnC was unaltered by pH such that TnI S150D remained slow, S23/24D remained accelerated and the combined S23/24/150D remained accelerated. This effect of the combined TnI Ser-150 and Ser-23/24 pseudo-phosphorylation to maintain Ca2+ binding while accelerating Ca2+ dissociation represents the first post-translational modification of troponin by phosphorylation to both accelerate thin filament deactivation and maintain Ca2+ sensitive activation. These data suggest TnI Ser-150 phosphorylation attenuation of the pH-dependent decrease in Ca2+ sensitivity and its combination with Ser-23/24 phosphorylation to maintain accelerated thin filament deactivation may impart an adaptive role to preserve contraction during acidic ischemia pH without slowing relaxation.
PMCID: PMC4075059  PMID: 24657721
Cardiac troponin I; thin filament deactivation; acidosis; phosphorylation
19.  Selective inhibition of class I but not class IIb histone deacetylases exerts cardiac protection from ischemia reperfusion 
While inhibition of class I/IIb histone deacetylases (HDACs) protects the mammalian heart from ischemia reperfusion (IR) injury, class selective effects remain unexamined. We hypothesized that selective inhibition of class I HDACs would preserve left ventricular contractile function following IR in isolated hearts. Male Sprague Dawley rats (n=6 per group) were injected with vehicle (dimethylsulfoxide, 0.63 mg/kg), the class I/IIb HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A (1 mg/kg), the class I HDAC inhibitor entinostat (MS-275, 10 mg/kg), or the HDAC6 (class IIb) inhibitor tubastatin A (10 mg/kg). After 24 h, hearts were isolated and perfused in Langendorff mode for 30 min (Sham) or subjected to 30 min global ischemia and 120 min global reperfusion (IR). A saline filled balloon attached to a pressure transducer was placed in the LV to monitor contractile function. After perfusion, LV tissue was collected for measurements of antioxidant protein levels and infarct area. At the conclusion of IR, MS-275 pretreatment was associated with significant preservation of developed pressure, rate of pressure generation, rate of pressure relaxation and rate pressure product, as compared to vehicle treated hearts. There was significant reduction of infarct area with MS-275 pretreatment. Contractile function was not significantly restored in hearts treated with trichostatin A or tubastatin A. Mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and catalase protein and mRNA in hearts from animals pretreated with MS-275 were increased following IR, as compared to Sham. This was associated with a dramatic enrichment of nuclear FOXO3a transcription factor, which mediates the expression of SOD2 and catalase. Tubastatin A treatment was associated with significantly decreased catalase levels after IR. Class I HDAC inhibition elicits protection of contractile function following IR, which is associated with increased expression of endogenous antioxidant enzymes. Class I/IIb HDAC inhibition with trichostatin A or selective inhibition of HDAC6 with tubastatin A was not protective. This study highlights the need for the development of new strategies that target specific HDAC isoforms in cardiac ischemia reperfusion.
PMCID: PMC4046340  PMID: 24632412
histone deacetylase; ischemia reperfusion; catalase; superoxide dismutase; isolated heart; FOXO
20.  Cardiomyocyte-Specific Expression of CRNK, the C-terminal Domain of PYK2, Maintains Ventricular Function and Slows Ventricular Remodeling in a Mouse Model of Dilated Cardiomyopathy 
Up-regulation and activation of PYK2, a member of the FAK family of protein tyrosine kinases, is involved in the pathogenesis of left ventricular (LV) remodeling and heart failure (HF). PYK2 activation can be prevented by CRNK, the C-terminal domain of PYK2. We previously demonstrated that adenoviral-mediated CRNK gene transfer improved survival and LV function, and slowed LV remodeling in a rat model of coronary artery ligation-induced HF.
We now interrogate whether cardiomyocyte-specific, transgenic CRNK expression prevents LV remodeling and HF in a mouse model of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) caused by constitutively active Protein Kinase Cε (caPKCε).
Methods and Results
Transgenic (TG; FVB/N background) mice were engineered to express rat CRNK under control of the α-myosin heavy chain promoter, and crossed with FVB/N mice with cardiomyocyte-specific expression of caPKCε to create double TG mice. LV structure, function, and gene expression was evaluated in all 4 groups (nonTG FVB/N; caPKCε(+/-); CRNK(+/-); and caPKCε x CRNK (PXC) double TG mice) at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12mo of age. CRNK expression followed a Mendelian distribution, and CRNK mice developed and survived normally through 12mo. Cardiac structure, function and selected gene expression of CRNK mice were similar to nonTG littermates. CRNK had no effect on caPKCε expression and vice versa. PYK2 was up-regulated ~6-fold in caPKCε mice, who developed a non-hypertrophic, progressive DCM with reduced systolic (Contractility Index=151±5 vs. 90±4 sec-1) and diastolic (Tau=7.5±0.5 vs. 14.7±1.3 msec) function, and LV dilatation (LV Remodeling Index (LVRI)=4.2±0.1 vs. 6.0±0.3 for FVB/N vs. caPKCε mice, respectively; P<0.05 for each at 12mo). In double TG PXC mice, CRNK expression significantly prolonged survival, improved contractile function (Contractile Index=115±8 sec-1; Tau=9.5±1.0 msec), and reduced LV remodeling (LVRI=4.9±0.1).
Cardiomyocyte-specific expression of CRNK improves contractile function and slows LV remodeling in a mouse model of DCM.
PMCID: PMC4064715  PMID: 24713463
Heart failure; gene expression; protein kinase C; echocardiography; focal adhesion kinase
21.  Thin filament incorporation of an engineered cardiac troponin C variant (L48Q) enhances contractility in intact cardiomyocytes from healthy and infarcted hearts 
Many current pharmaceutical therapies for systolic heart failure target intracellular [Ca2+] ([Ca2+]i) metabolism, or cardiac troponin C (cTnC) on thin filaments, and can have significant side-effects, including arrhythmias or adverse effects on diastolic function. In this study, we tested the feasibility of directly increasing the Ca2+ binding properties of cTnC to enhance contraction independent of [Ca2+]i in intact cardiomyocytes from healthy and myocardial infarcted (MI) hearts. Specifically, cardiac thin filament activation was enhanced through adenovirus-mediated over-expression of a cardiac troponin C (cTnC) variant designed to have increased Ca2+ binding affinity conferred by single amino acid substitution (L48Q). In skinned cardiac trabeculae and myofibrils we and others have shown that substitution of L48Q cTnC for native cTnC increases Ca2+ sensitivity of force and the maximal rate of force development. Here we introduced L48Q cTnC into myofilaments of intact cardiomyocytes via adeno-viral transduction to deliver cDNA for the mutant or wild type (WT) cTnC protein. Using video-microscopy to monitor cell contraction, relaxation, and intracellular Ca2+ transients (Fura-2), we report that incorporation of L48Q cTnC significantly increased contractility of cardiomyocytes from healthy and MI hearts without adversely affecting Ca2+ transient properties or relaxation. The improvements in contractility from L48Q cTnC expression are likely the result of enhanced contractile efficiency, as intracellular Ca2+ transient amplitudes were not affected. Expression and incorporation of L48Q cTnC into myofilaments was confirmed by Western blot analysis of myofibrils from transduced cardiomyocytes, which indicated replacement of 18±2% of native cTnC with L48Q cTnC. These experiments demonstrate the feasibility of directly targeting cardiac thin filament proteins to enhance cardiomyocyte contractility that is impaired following MI.
PMCID: PMC4082830  PMID: 24690333
cardiomyocyte contractility; Ca2+ sensitivity; cardiomyocytes; adenovirus; gene therapy; myocardial infarction
22.  In silico screening of the impact of hERG channel kinetic abnormalities on channel block and susceptibility to acquired long QT syndrome 
Accurate diagnosis of predisposition to long QT syndrome is crucial for reducing the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. In recent years, drug-induced provocative tests have proved useful to unmask some latent mutations linked to cardiac arrhythmias. In this study we expanded this concept by developing a prototype for a computational provocative screening test to reveal genetic predisposition to acquired Long-QT Syndrome (aLTQS).
We developed a computational approach to reveal the pharmacological properties of IKr blocking drugs that are most likely to cause aLQTS in the setting of subtle alterations in IKr channel gating that would be expected to result from benign genetic variants. We used the model to predict the most potentially lethal combinations of kinetic anomalies and drug properties. In doing so, we also implicitly predicted ideal inverse therapeutic properties of K channel openers that would be expected to remedy a specific defect. We systematically performed “in silico mutagenesis” by altering discrete kinetic transition rates of the Fink et al. Markov model of human IKr channels, corresponding to activation, inactivation, deactivation and recovery from inactivation of IKr channels. We then screened and identified the properties of IKr blockers that caused acquired Long QT and therefore unmasked mutant phenotypes for mild, moderate and severe variants. Mutant IKr channels were incorporated into the O’Hara et al. human ventricular action potential (AP) model and subjected to simulated application of a wide variety of IKr-drug interactions in order to identify the characteristics that selectively exacerbate the AP duration (APD) differences between wild-type and IKr mutated cells. Our results show that drugs with disparate affinities to conformation states of the IKr channel are key to amplify variants underlying susceptibility to acquired Long QT Syndrome, an effect that is especially pronounced at slow frequencies. Finally, we developed a mathematical formulation of the M54T MiRP1 latent mutation and simulated a provocative test. In this setting, application of dofetilide dramatically amplified the predicted QT interval duration in the M54T hMiRP1 mutation compared to wild-type.
PMCID: PMC4066959  PMID: 24631769
mutations; drug-induced long-QT syndrome; drug-induced arrhythmias; computer modeling; potassium channels; genetics
23.  Aliskiren and Valsartan Mediate Left Ventricular Remodeling Post-Myocardial Infarction in Mice through MMP-9 Effects 
We evaluated whether aliskiren, valsartan, or the combination was protective following myocardial infarction (MI) through effects on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9.
Methods and Results
C57BL/6J wild type (WT, n=94) and MMP-9 null (null, n=85) mice were divided into 4 groups at 3 h post-MI: saline (S), aliskiren (A; 50 mg/kg/d), valsartan (V; 40 mg/kg/d), or A+V and compared to no MI controls at 28 d post-MI. All groups had similar infarct areas, and survival rates were higher in the null mice. The treatments influenced systolic function and hypertrophy index, as well as extracellular matrix (ECM) and inflammatory genes in the remote region, indicating that primary effects were on the viable myocardium. Saline treated WT mice showed increased end systolic and diastolic volumes and hypertrophy index, along with reduced ejection fraction. MMP-9 deletion improved LV function post-MI. Aliskiren attenuated the increase in end systolic volume and hypertrophy index, while valsartan improved end diastolic volumes and aliskiren + valsartan improved the hypertrophy index only when MMP-9 was absent. Extracellular matrix and inflammatory gene expression showed distinct patterns among the treatment groups, indicating a divergence in mechanisms of remodeling.
This study shows that MMP-9 regulates aliskiren and valsartan effects in mice. These results in mice provide mechanistic insight to help translate these findings to post-MI patients.
PMCID: PMC4095995  PMID: 24768766
myocardial infarction; matrix metalloproteinase; proteomics; remodeling; inflammation; extracellular matrix; MMP-9; aliskiren; valsartan
24.  Ca2+ homeostasis in sealed t-tubules of mouse ventricular myocytes 
We have recently shown that in mouse ventricular myocytes, t-tubules can be quickly and tightly sealed during resolution of hyposmotic shock of physiologically relevant magnitude. Sealing of t-tubules is associated with trapping extracellular solution inside the myocytes but the ionic homeostasis of sealed t-tubules and the consequences of potential transtubular ion fluxes remain unknown. In this study we investigated dynamics of Ca2+ movements associated with sealing of t-tubules. The data show that under normal conditions sealed t-tubules contain Ca2+ at concentrations below 100 μM. However, blockade of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels with 10 μM nicardipine, or increasing extracellular concentration of K+ from 5.4 mM to 20 mM led to several fold increase in concentration of t-tubular Ca2+. Alternatively, release of Ca2+ from sarcoplasmic reticulum using 10 mM caffeine led to restoration of t-tubular Ca2+ towards extracellular levels within few seconds. Sealing of t-tubules in the presence of extracellular 1.5 mM Ca2+ and 5.4 mM extracellular K+ led to occasional and sporadic intracellular Ca2+ transients. In contrast, sealing of t-tubules in the presence of 10 mM caffeine was characterized by significant long lasting increase in intracellular Ca2+. The effect was completely abolished in the absence of extracellular Ca2+ and significantly reduced in pre-detubulated myocytes but was essentially preserved in the presence of mitochondrial decoupler dinitrophenol. This study shows that sealed t-tubules are capable of highly regulated transport of Ca2+ and present a major route for Ca2+ influx into cytosol during sealing process.
PMCID: PMC4120940  PMID: 24787472
ventricular myocytes; t-tubules; hyposmotic stress; calcium; Ca2+
25.  PKA turnover by the REGγ-proteasome modulates FoxO1 cellular activity and VEGF-induced angiogenesis 
The REGγ-proteasome serves as a short-cut for the destruction of certain intact mammalian proteins in the absence of ubiquitin-and ATP. The biological roles of the proteasome activator REGγ are not completely understood. Here we demonstrate that REGγ controls degradation of protein kinase A catalytic subunit-α (PKAca) both in primary human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and mouse embryonic fibroblast cells (MEFs). Accumulation of PKAca in REGγ-deficient HUVECs or MEFs results in phosphorylation and nuclear exclusion of the transcription factor FoxO1, indicating that REGγ is involved in preserving FoxO1 transcriptional activity. Consequently, VEGF-induced expression of the FoxO1 responsive genes, VCAM-1 and E-Selectin, was tightly controlled by REGγ in a PKA dependent manner. Functionally, REGγ is crucial for the migration of HUVECs. REGγ−/− mice display compromised VEGF-instigated neovascularization in cornea and aortic ring models. Implanted matrigel plugs containing VEGF in REGγ−/− mice induced fewer capillaries than in REGγ+/+ littermates. Taken together, our study identifies REGγ as a novel angiogenic factor that plays an important role in VEGF-induced expression of VCAM-1 and E-Selectin by antagonizing PKA signaling. Identification of the REGγ–PKA–FoxO1 pathway in endothelial cells (ECs) provides another potential target for therapeutic intervention in vascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC4237316  PMID: 24560667
Angiogenesis; E-Selectin; FoxO1; PKAca; REGγ; VCAM-1

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