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Mol Cell Biol. 1990 Jul;10(7):3709-16.

The c-myc proto-oncogene regulates cardiac development in transgenic mice.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


During the maturation of the cardiac myocyte, a transition occurs from hyperplastic to hypertrophic growth. The factors that control this transition in the developing heart are unknown. Proto-oncogenes such as c-myc have been implicated in the regulation of cellular proliferation and differentiation, and in the heart the switch from myocyte proliferation to terminal differentiation is synchronous with a decrease in c-myc mRNA abundance. To determine whether c-myc can influence myocyte proliferation or differentiation, we examined the in vivo effect of increasing c-myc expression during embryogenesis and of preventing the decrease in c-myc mRNA expression that normally occurs during cardiac development. The model system used was a strain of transgenic mice exhibiting constitutive expression of c-myc mRNA in cardiac myocytes throughout development. In these transgenic mice, increased c-myc mRNA expression was found to be associated with both atrial and ventricular enlargement. This increase in cardiac mass was secondary to myocyte hyperplasia, with the transgenic hearts containing more than twice as many myocytes as did nontransgenic hearts. The results suggest that in the transgenic animals there is additional hyperplastic growth during fetal development. However, this additional proliferative growth is not reflected in abnormal myocyte maturation, as assessed by the expression of the cardiac and skeletal isoforms of alpha-actin. The results of this study indicate that constitutive expression of c-myc mRNA in the heart during development results in enhanced hyperplastic growth and suggest a regulatory role for this proto-oncogene in cardiac myogenesis.

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