Free radical biology & medicine

Intermittent hypoxia-induced cardiomyopathy and its prevention by Nrf2 and metallothionein.

PMID 28778483


The mechanism for intermittent hypoxia (IH)-induced cardiomyopathy remains obscure. We reported the prevention of acute and chronic IH-induced cardiac damage by selective cardiac overexpression of metallothionein (MT). Herein we defined that MT-mediated protection from IH-cardiomyopathy is via activation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a critical redox-balance controller in the body. For this, mice were exposed to IH for 3 days (acute) or 4 or 8 weeks (chronic). Cardiac Nrf2 and MT expression in response to IH were significantly increased acutely yet decreased chronically. Interestingly, cardiac overexpression (Nrf2-TG) or global deletion of the Nrf2 gene (Nrf2-KO) made mice highly resistant or highly susceptible, respectively, to IH-induced cardiomyopathy and MT expression. Mechanistically, 4-week IH exposure significantly decreased cardiac Nrf2 binding to the MT gene promoter, and thus, depressed both MT transcription and translation in WT mice but not Nrf2-TG mice. Likewise, cardiac MT overexpression prevented chronic IH-induced cardiomyopathy and down-regulation of Nrf2 likely via activation of a PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β/Fyn-dependent signaling pathway. These results reveal an integrated relationship between cardiac Nrf2 and MT expression in response to IH -- acute compensatory up-regulation followed by chronic down-regulation and cardiomyopathy. Cardiac overexpression of either Nrf2 or MT offered cardioprotection from IH via complicated PI3K/Akt/GSK3B/Fyn signaling. Potential therapeutics may target either Nrf2 or MT to prevent chronic IH-induced cardiomyopathy.