In the mammalian heart, the left ventricle (LV) rapidly becomes more dominant in size and function over the right ventricle (RV) after birth. The molecular regulators responsible for this chamber-specific differential growth are largely unknown. We found that cardiomyocytes in the neonatal mouse RV had lower proliferation, more apoptosis, and a smaller average size compared with the LV. This chamber-specific growth pattern was associated with a selective activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity in the RV and simultaneous inactivation in the LV. Cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of both the Mapk14 and Mapk11 genes in mice resulted in loss of p38 MAPK expression and activity in the neonatal heart. Inactivation of p38 activity led to a marked increase in cardiomyocyte proliferation and hypertrophy but diminished cardiomyocyte apoptosis, specifically in the RV. Consequently, the p38-inactivated hearts showed RV-specific enlargement postnatally, progressing to pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure at the adult stage. Chamber-specific p38 activity was associated with differential expression of dual-specific phosphatases (DUSPs) in neonatal hearts, including DUSP26. Unbiased transcriptome analysis revealed that IRE1α/XBP1–mediated gene regulation contributed to p38 MAPK–dependent regulation of neonatal cardiomyocyte proliferation and binucleation. These findings establish an obligatory role of DUSP/p38/IRE1α signaling in cardiomyocytes for chamber-specific growth in the postnatal heart.


Tomohiro Yokota, Jin Li, Jijun Huang, Zhaojun Xiong, Qing Zhang, Tracey Chan, Yichen Ding, Christoph Rau, Kevin Sung, Shuxun Ren, Rajan Kulkarni, Tzung Hsiai, Xinshu Xiao, Marlin Touma, Susumu Minamisawa, Yibin Wang


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