Research ArticleCardiovascular Physiology

RhoA signaling in cardiomyocytes protects against stress-induced heart failure but facilitates cardiac fibrosis

Sci. Signal.  21 Oct 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 348, pp. ra100
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005262

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Abstract

The Ras-related guanosine triphosphatase RhoA mediates pathological cardiac hypertrophy, but also promotes cell survival and is cardioprotective after ischemia/reperfusion injury. To understand how RhoA mediates these opposing roles in the myocardium, we generated mice with a cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of RhoA. Under normal conditions, the hearts from these mice showed functional, structural, and growth parameters similar to control mice. Additionally, the hearts of the cardiomyocyte-specific, RhoA-deficient mice subjected to transverse aortic constriction (TAC)—a procedure that induces pressure overload and, if prolonged, heart failure—exhibited a similar amount of hypertrophy as those of the wild-type mice subjected to TAC. Thus, neither normal cardiac homeostasis nor the initiation of compensatory hypertrophy required RhoA in cardiomyocytes. However, in response to chronic TAC, hearts from mice with cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of RhoA showed greater dilation, with thinner ventricular walls and larger chamber dimensions, and more impaired contractile function than those from control mice subjected to chronic TAC. These effects were associated with aberrant calcium signaling, as well as decreased activity of extracellular signal–regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and AKT. In addition, hearts from mice with cardiomyocyte-specific RhoA deficiency also showed less fibrosis in response to chronic TAC, with decreased transcriptional activation of genes involved in fibrosis, including myocardin response transcription factor (MRTF) and serum response factor (SRF), suggesting that the fibrotic response to stress in the heart depends on cardiomyocyte-specific RhoA signaling. Our data indicated that RhoA regulates multiple pathways in cardiomyocytes, mediating both cardioprotective (hypertrophy without dilation) and cardio-deleterious effects (fibrosis).

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