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Gene Expr. 1999;7(4-6):337-48.

Signaling pathways mediating the response to hypertrophic stress in the heart.

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Massachusetts General Hospital, and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02129, USA.


Cardiac hypertrophy is an increase in the mass of the heart. It is a major risk factor for the development of myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure, diseases that afflict millions of patients worldwide. Hypertrophy can be caused by intrinsic defects of the proteins of the contractile apparatus of the heart, or by extrinsic stimuli such as hypertension. In this review, we will focus on the cytosolic signal transduction pathways that mediate the hypertrophic response to extrinsic stimuli. Although a large number of signaling molecules have been implicated in the hypertrophic response, we will review data that, we believe, suggest there may be only a few molecules that serve as signaling funnels through which many hypertrophic signals must pass on their way to the nucleus. These include the stress response protein kinases (the stress-activated protein kinases or SAPKs, and, possibly, the p38 kinases) and calcineurin. These molecules have as their primary targets transcription factors, many of which have been implicated in the complex yet stereotypic genetic response to hypertrophic stress. In most cases, it is not possible at present to complete the link from hypertrophic stimulus through a specific signaling molecule and a specific transcription factor to the induction of a specific gene that initiates a particular biologic response. We will attempt to identify some of the most important areas where major questions remain in the hopes of stimulating further research into this major cause of death and disability.

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