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Endocrinology. 2004 Jan;145(1):24-35; discussion 21-3. Epub 2003 Sep 11.

Urocortin-II and urocortin-III are cardioprotective against ischemia reperfusion injury: an essential endogenous cardioprotective role for corticotropin releasing factor receptor type 2 in the murine heart.

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  • 1The Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, The Salk Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptor type 2beta (CRFR2beta) is expressed in the heart. Urocortin (Ucn)-I activation of CRFR2beta is cardioprotective against ischemic reperfusion (I/R) injury by stimulation of the ERKs1/2 p42, 44. However, by binding CRF receptor type 1, Ucn-I can also activate the hypothalamic stress axis. Ucn-II/stresscopin related peptide and Ucn-III/stresscopin are two new members of the CRF/Ucn-I gene family and are selective for CRFR2beta. We propose that CRFR2beta selective Ucn-II or Ucn-III will protect cardiomyocytes and the ex vivo Langendorff perfused rat heart from I/R injury by activation of ERK1/2-p42, 44. Ucn-II is expressed in mouse cardiomyocytes, and Ucn-II or Ucn-III can bind to CRFR2beta, resulting in ERK1/2-p42, p-44 phosphorylation and cAMP stimulation. Phosphorylation of ERK1/2-p42, p-44 is regulated by the Ras/Raf-1 kinase pathway, independent of adenylate cyclase and, therefore, cAMP activation. Ucn-II and Ucn-III protect cardiomyocytes from I/R injury and reduce the percentage of infarct size:risk ratio in Langendorff perfused rat hearts exposed to regional I/R (P<0.001). The CRFR2 selective antagonist astressin2-B and an ERK1/2-p42, 44 inhibitor abolish the cardioprotective actions of Ucn-II and Ucn-III in reperfusion. Cardiomyocytes isolated from CRFR2-null mice are less resistant to I/R injury, compared with wild-type cardiomyocytes. We propose the use of CRFR2 selective agonists, Ucn-II and Ucn-III, to treat ischemic heart disease because of their potent cardioprotective effects in the murine heart and their minimal impact on the hypothalamic stress axis. We emphasize an important endogenous cardioprotective role for CRFR2beta in the murine heart.

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