Cardiac hypertrophy is a major predictor of heart failure and a prevalent disorder with high mortality. Little is known, however, regarding mechanisms governing the transition from stable cardiac hypertrophy to decompensated heart failure. Here, we tested the role of autophagy, a conserved pathway mediating bulk degradation of long-lived proteins and cellular organelles that can lead to cell death. To quantify autophagic activity, we engineered a line of “autophagy reporter” mice and confirmed that cardiomyocyte autophagy can be induced by short-term nutrient deprivation in vivo. Pressure overload induced by aortic banding induced heart failure and greatly increased cardiac autophagy. Load-induced autophagic activity peaked at 48 hours and remained significantly elevated for at least 3 weeks. In addition, autophagic activity was not spatially homogeneous but rather was seen at particularly high levels in basal septum. Heterozygous disruption of the gene coding for Beclin 1, a protein required for early autophagosome formation, decreased cardiomyocyte autophagy and diminished pathological remodeling induced by severe pressure stress. Conversely, Beclin 1 overexpression heightened autophagic activity and accentuated pathological remodeling. Taken together, these findings implicate autophagy in the pathogenesis of load-induced heart failure and suggest it may be a target for novel therapeutic intervention.
Hongxin Zhu, Paul Tannous, Janet L. Johnstone, Yongli Kong, John M. Shelton, James A. Richardson, Vien Le, Beth Levine, Beverly A. Rothermel, Joseph A. Hill
Cardiomyocyte autophagy triggered by short-term nutrient deprivation or pressure-overload hemodynamic stress.