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Trends Biochem Sci. 2004 Nov;29(11):609-17.

The biochemical response of the heart to hypertension and exercise.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University Medical Center, Campus Box 8231, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St Louis, MI 63110-1093, USA.


Mechanical stress on the heart can lead to crucially different outcomes. Exercise is beneficial because it causes heart muscle cells to enlarge (hypertrophy). Chronic hypertension also causes hypertrophy, but in addition it causes an excessive increase in fibroblasts and extracellular matrix (fibrosis), death of cardiomyocytes and ultimately heart failure. Recent research shows that stimulation of physiological (beneficial) hypertrophy involves several signaling pathways, including those mediated by protein kinase B (also known as Akt) and the extracellular-signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2). Hypertension, beta-adrenergic stimulation and agonists such as angiotensin II (Ang II) activate not only ERK1/2 but also p38 and the Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), leading to pathological heart remodeling. Despite this progress, the mechanisms that activate fibroblasts to cause fibrosis and those that differentiate between exercise and hypertension to produce physiological and pathological responses, respectively, remain to be established.

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