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Cardiovasc Res. 2012 Apr 1;94(1):77-86. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvs014. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Unfavourable consequences of chronic cardiac HIF-1α stabilization.

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Department of Cardiovascular Physiology, Universitätsmedizin, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Humboldtallee 23, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.



The hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the master modulator of hypoxic gene expression. The effects of chronically stabilized cardiac HIF-1α and its role in the diseased heart are not precisely known. The aims of this study were as follows: (i) to elucidate consequences of HIF-1α stabilization in the heart; (ii) to analyse long-term effects of HIF-1α stabilization with ageing and the ability of the HIF-1α overexpressing hearts to respond to increased mechanical load; and (iii) to analyse HIF-1α protein levels in failing heart samples.


In a cardiac-specific HIF-1α transgenic mouse model, constitutive expression of HIF-1α leads to changes in capillary area and shifts the cardiac metabolism towards glycolysis with a net increase in glucose uptake. Furthermore, Ca(2+) handling is altered, with increased Ca(2)(+) transients and faster intracellular [Ca(2+)] decline. These changes are associated with decreased expression of sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase 2a but elevated phosphorylation of phospholamban. HIF-1α transgenic mice subjected to transverse aortic constriction exhibited profound cardiac decompensation. Moreover, cardiomyopathy was also seen in ageing transgenic mice. In parallel, we found an increased stabilization of HIF-1α in heart samples of patients with end-stage heart failure.


Changes induced with transgenic cardiac HIF-1α possibly mediate beneficial effects in the short term; however, with increased mechanical load and ageing they become detrimental for cardiac function. Together with the finding of increased HIF-1α protein levels in samples from human patients with cardiomyopathy, these data indicate that chronic HIF-1α stabilization drives autonomous pathways that add to disease progression.

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