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Circ Res. 2004 Jan 9;94(1):110-8. Epub 2003 Dec 1.

Calcineurin/NFAT coupling participates in pathological, but not physiological, cardiac hypertrophy.

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Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-3039, USA.


Calcineurin (PP2B) is a calcium/calmodulin-activated, serine-threonine phosphatase that transmits signals to the nucleus through the dephosphorylation and translocation of nuclear factor of activated T cell (NFAT) transcription factors. Whereas calcineurin-NFAT signaling has been implicated in regulating the hypertrophic growth of the myocardium, considerable controversy persists as to its role in maintaining versus initiating hypertrophy, its role in pathological versus physiological hypertrophy, and its role in heart failure. To address these issues, NFAT-luciferase reporter transgenic mice were generated and characterized. These mice showed robust and calcineurin-specific activation in the heart that was inhibited with cyclosporin A. In the adult heart, NFAT-luciferase activity was upregulated in a delayed, but sustained manner throughout eight weeks of pathological cardiac hypertrophy induced by pressure-overload, or more dramatically following myocardial infarction-induced heart failure. In contrast, physiological hypertrophy as produced in two separate models of exercise training failed to show significant calcineurin-NFAT coupling in the heart at multiple time points, despite measurable increases in heart to body weight ratios. Moreover, stimulation of hypertrophy with growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor-1 (GH-IGF-1) failed to activate calcineurin-NFAT signaling in the heart or in culture, despite hypertrophy, activation of Akt, and activation of p70 S6K. Calcineurin Abeta gene-targeted mice also showed a normal hypertrophic response after GH-IGF-1 infusion. Lastly, exercise- or GH-IGF-1-induced cardiac growth failed to show induction of hypertrophic marker gene expression compared with pressure-overloaded animals. Although a direct cause-and-effect relationship between NFAT-luciferase activity and pathological hypertrophy was not proven here, our results support the hypothesis that separable signaling pathways regulate pathological versus physiological hypertrophic growth of the myocardium, with calcineurin-NFAT potentially serving a regulatory role that is more specialized for maladaptive hypertrophy and heart failure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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