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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Jan;300(1):H191-200. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00232.2010. Epub 2010 Oct 29.

Hypotonic swelling-induced activation of PKN1 mediates cell survival in cardiac myocytes.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey 07103, USA.


Hypotonic cell swelling in the myocardium is induced by pathological conditions, including ischemia-reperfusion, and affects the activities of ion transporters/channels and gene expression. However, the signaling mechanism activated by hypotonic stress (HS) is not fully understood in cardiac myocytes. A specialized protein kinase cascade, consisting of Pkc1 and MAPKs, is activated by HS in yeast. Here, we demonstrate that protein kinase N1 (PKN1), a serine/threonine protein kinase and a homolog of Pkc1, is activated by HS (67% osmolarity) within 5 min and reaches peak activity at 60 min in cardiac myocytes. Activation of PKN1 by HS was accompanied by Thr(774) phosphorylation and concomitant activation of PDK1, a potential upstream regulator of PKN1. HS also activated RhoA, thereby increasing interactions between PKN1 and RhoA. PP1 (10(-5) M), a selective Src family tyrosine kinase inhibitor, significantly suppressed HS-induced activation of RhoA and PKN1. Constitutively active PKN1 significantly increased the transcriptional activity of Elk1-GAL4, an effect that was inhibited by dominant negative MEK. Overexpression of PKN1 significantly increased ERK phosphorylation, whereas downregulation of PKN1 inhibited HS-induced ERK phosphorylation. Downregulation of PKN1 and inhibition of ERK by U-0126 both significantly inhibited the survival of cardiac myocytes in the presence of HS. These results suggest that a signaling cascade, consisting of Src, RhoA, PKN1, and ERK, is activated by HS, thereby promoting cardiac myocyte survival.

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