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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2009 Sep;47(3):382-90. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2009.05.016. Epub 2009 Jun 6.

Overexpression of Hsp20 prevents endotoxin-induced myocardial dysfunction and apoptosis via inhibition of NF-kappaB activation.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0575, USA.


The occurrence of cardiovascular dysfunction in sepsis is associated with a significantly increased mortality rate of 70% to 90% compared with 20% in septic patients without cardiovascular impairment. Thus, rectification or blockade of myocardial depressant factors should partly ameliorate sepsis progression. Heat shock protein 20 (Hsp20) has been shown to enhance myocardial contractile function and protect against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity. To investigate the possible role of Hsp20 in sepsis-mediated cardiac injury, we first examined the expression profiles of five major Hsps in response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge, and observed that only the expression of Hsp20 was downregulated in LPS-treated myocardium, suggesting that this decrease might be one of the mechanisms contributing to LPS-induced cardiovascular defects. Further studies using loss-of-function and gain-of-function approaches in adult rat cardiomyocytes verified that reduced Hsp20 levels were indeed correlated with the impaired contractile function. In fact, overexpression of Hsp20 significantly enhanced cardiomyocyte contractility upon LPS treatment. Moreover, after administration of LPS (25 microg/g) in vivo, Hsp20 transgenic mice (10-fold overexpression) displayed: 1) an improvement in myocardial function; 2) reduced the degree of cardiac apoptosis; and 3) decreased NF-kappaB activity, accompanied with reduced myocardial cytokines IL-1beta and TNF-alpha production, compared to the LPS-treated non-transgenic littermate controls. Thus, the increases in Hsp20 levels can protect against LPS-induced cardiac apoptosis and dysfunction, associated with inhibition of NF-kappaB activity, suggesting that Hsp20 may be a new therapeutic agent for the treatment of sepsis.

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