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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2009 Feb;46(2):201-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2008.10.025. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

PGC-1alpha and ERRalpha target gene downregulation is a signature of the failing human heart.

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Center for Cardiovascular Research, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid Ave., Campus Box 8086, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Heart failure is a cause of significant morbidity and mortality in developed nations, and results from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. To discover gene regulatory networks underlying heart failure, we analyzed DNA microarray data based on left ventricular free-wall myocardium from 59 failing (32 ischemic cardiomyopathy, 27 idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy) and 33 non-failing explanted human hearts from the Cardiogenomics Consortium. In particular, we sought to investigate cardiac gene expression changes at the level of individual genes, as well as biological pathways which contain groups of functionally related genes. Utilizing a combination of computational techniques, including Comparative Marker Selection and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis, we identified a subset of downstream gene targets of the master mitochondrial transcriptional regulator, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1alpha (PGC-1alpha), whose expression is collectively decreased in failing human hearts. We also observed decreased expression of the key PGC-1alpha regulatory partner, estrogen-related receptor alpha (ERRalpha), as well as ERRalpha target genes which may participate in the downregulation of mitochondrial metabolic capacity. Gene expression of the antiapoptotic Raf-1/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway was decreased in failing hearts. Alterations in PGC-1alpha and ERRalpha target gene sets were significantly correlated with an important clinical parameter of disease severity - left ventricular ejection fraction, and were predictive of failing vs. non-failing phenotypes. Overall, our results implicate PGC-1alpha and ERRalpha in the pathophysiology of human heart failure, and define dynamic target gene sets sharing known interrelated regulatory mechanisms capable of contributing to the mitochondrial dysfunction characteristic of this disease process.

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