Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Intrinsic-mediated caspase activation is essential for cardiomyocyte hypertrophy.

PMID 24101493


Cardiomyocyte hypertrophy is the cellular response that mediates pathologic enlargement of the heart. This maladaptation is also characterized by cell behaviors that are typically associated with apoptosis, including cytoskeletal reorganization and disassembly, altered nuclear morphology, and enhanced protein synthesis/translation. Here, we investigated the requirement of apoptotic caspase pathways in mediating cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Cardiomyocytes treated with hypertrophy agonists displayed rapid and transient activation of the intrinsic-mediated cell death pathway, characterized by elevated levels of caspase 9, followed by caspase 3 protease activity. Disruption of the intrinsic cell death pathway at multiple junctures led to a significant inhibition of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy during agonist stimulation, with a corresponding reduction in the expression of known hypertrophic markers (atrial natriuretic peptide) and transcription factor activity [myocyte enhancer factor-2, nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB)]. Similarly, in vivo attenuation of caspase activity via adenoviral expression of the biologic effector caspase inhibitor p35 blunted cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in response to agonist stimulation. Treatment of cardiomyocytes with procaspase 3 activating compound 1, a small-molecule activator of caspase 3, resulted in a robust induction of the hypertrophy response in the absence of any agonist stimulation. These results suggest that caspase-dependent signaling is necessary and sufficient to promote cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. These results also confirm that cell death signal pathways behave as active remodeling agents in cardiomyocytes, independent of inducing an apoptosis response.