Mammalian cardiomyocytes become post-mitotic shortly after birth. Understanding how this occurs is highly relevant to cardiac regenerative therapy. Yet, how cardiomyocytes achieve and maintain a post-mitotic state is unknown. Here, we show that cardiomyocyte centrosome integrity is lost shortly after birth. This is coupled with relocalization of various centrosome proteins to the nuclear envelope. Consequently, postnatal cardiomyocytes are unable to undergo ciliogenesis and the nuclear envelope adopts the function as cellular microtubule organizing center. Loss of centrosome integrity is associated with, and can promote, cardiomyocyte G0/G1 cell cycle arrest suggesting that centrosome disassembly is developmentally utilized to achieve the post-mitotic state in mammalian cardiomyocytes. Adult cardiomyocytes of zebrafish and newt, which are able to proliferate, maintain centrosome integrity. Collectively, our data provide a novel mechanism underlying the post-mitotic state of mammalian cardiomyocytes as well as a potential explanation for why zebrafish and newts, but not mammals, can regenerate their heart.
Muscle cells in the heart contract in regular rhythms to pump blood around the body. In humans, rats and other mammals, the vast majority of heart muscle cells lose the ability to divide shortly after birth. Therefore, the heart is unable to replace cells that are lost over the life of the individual, for example, during a heart attack. If too many of these cells are lost, the heart will be unable to pump effectively, which can lead to heart failure. Currently, the only treatment option in humans with heart failure is to perform a heart transplant.
Some animals, such as newts and zebrafish, are able to replace lost heart muscle cells throughout their lifetimes. Thus, these species are able to fully regenerate their hearts even after 20% has been removed. This suggests that it might be possible to manipulate human heart muscle cells to make them divide and regenerate the heart. Recent research has suggested that structures called centrosomes, known to be required to separate copies of the DNA during cell division, are used as a hub to integrate the initial signals that determine whether a cell should divide or not.
Here, Zebrowski et al. studied the centrosomes of heart muscle cells in rats, newts and zebrafish. The experiments show that the centrosomes in rat heart muscle cells are dissembled shortly after birth. Centrosomes are made of several proteins and, in the rat cells, these proteins moved to the membrane that surrounded the nucleus. On the other hand, the centrosomes in the heart muscle cells of the adult newts and zebrafish remained intact.
Further experiments found that that breaking apart the centrosomes of heart muscle cells taken from newborn rats stops these cells from dividing. Zebrowski et al.'s findings suggest that the loss of centrosomes after birth is a possible reason why the hearts of adult humans and other mammals are unable to regenerate after injury. In the future, these findings may aid the development of methods to regenerate human heart muscle and new treatments that may limit division of cancer cells.