Reversibility of Adverse, Calcineurin-Dependent Cardiac Remodeling
Background: Studies to dissect the role of calcineurin in pathological cardiac remodeling have relied heavily on murine models, in which genetic gain- and loss-of-function manipulations are initiated at or before birth. However, the great majority of clinical cardiac pathology occurs in adults, yet nothing is known about the effects of calcineurin when its activation commences in adulthood. Furthermore, despite the fact that ventricular hypertrophy is a well-established risk factor for heart failure, the relative pace and progression of these 2 major phenotypic features of heart disease are unknown.
Methods and Results: We engineered mice harboring in cardiomyocytes a constitutively active calcineurin transgene driven by a tetracycline-responsive promoter element. Expression of the mutant calcineurin transgene was initiated for variable lengths of time to determine the natural history of disease pathogenesis, and to determine when, if ever, these events are reversible. Activation of the calcineurin transgene in adult mice triggered rapid and robust cardiac growth with features characteristic of pathological hypertrophy. Concentric hypertrophy preceded the development of systolic dysfunction, fetal gene activation, fibrosis, and clinical heart failure. Furthermore, cardiac hypertrophy reversed spontaneously when calcineurin activity was turned off, and expression of fetal genes reverted to baseline. Fibrosis, a prominent feature of pathological cardiac remodeling, manifested partial reversibility.
Conclusions: Together, these data establish and define the deleterious effects of calcineurin signaling in adult heart and reveal that calcineurin-dependent hypertrophy with concentric geometry precedes systolic dysfunction and heart failure. Furthermore, these findings demonstrate that during much of the disease process, calcineurin-dependent remodeling remains reversible.
- Received July 17, 2010.
- Revision received June 12, 2011.
- Accepted June 14, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.