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Science 334 (6055): 528-531

Copyright © 2011 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Fatty Acids Identified in the Burmese Python Promote Beneficial Cardiac Growth

Cecilia A. Riquelme,1 Jason A. Magida,1 Brooke C. Harrison,1 Christopher E. Wall,1 Thomas G. Marr,2 Stephen M. Secor,3 Leslie A. Leinwand1,*

Abstract: Burmese pythons display a marked increase in heart mass after a large meal. We investigated the molecular mechanisms of this physiological heart growth with the goal of applying this knowledge to the mammalian heart. We found that heart growth in pythons is characterized by myocyte hypertrophy in the absence of cell proliferation and by activation of physiological signal transduction pathways. Despite high levels of circulating lipids, the postprandial python heart does not accumulate triglycerides or fatty acids. Instead, there is robust activation of pathways of fatty acid transport and oxidation combined with increased expression and activity of superoxide dismutase, a cardioprotective enzyme. We also identified a combination of fatty acids in python plasma that promotes physiological heart growth when injected into either pythons or mice.

1 Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.
2 Hiberna Corporation, Boulder, CO 80302, USA.
3 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: leslie.leinwand{at}

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