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EMBO J. 2003 Dec 1;22(23):6310-21.

NRSF regulates the fetal cardiac gene program and maintains normal cardiac structure and function.

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Department of Medicine and Clinical Science, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Reactivation of the fetal cardiac gene program is a characteristic feature of hypertrophied and failing hearts that correlates with impaired cardiac function and poor prognosis. However, the mechanism governing the reversible expression of fetal cardiac genes remains unresolved. Here we show that neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF), a transcriptional repressor, selectively regulates expression of multiple fetal cardiac genes, including those for atrial natriuretic peptide, brain natriuretic peptide and alpha-skeletal actin, and plays a role in molecular pathways leading to the re-expression of those genes in ventricular myocytes. Moreover, transgenic mice expressing a dominant-negative mutant of NRSF in their hearts exhibit dilated cardiomyopathy, high susceptibility to arrhythmias and sudden death. We demonstrate that genes encoding two ion channels that carry the fetal cardiac currents I(f) and I(Ca,T), which are induced in these mice and are potentially responsible for both the cardiac dysfunction and the arrhythmogenesis, are regulated by NRSF. Our results indicate NRSF to be a key transcriptional regulator of the fetal cardiac gene program and suggest an important role for NRSF in maintaining normal cardiac structure and function.

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