Cardiac Overexpression of Myotrophin Triggers Myocardial Hypertrophy and Heart Failure in Transgenic Mice

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Cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure remain leading causes of death in the United States. Many studies have suggested that, under stress, myocardium releases factors triggering protein synthesis and stimulating myocyte growth. We identified and cloned myotrophin, a 12-kDa protein from hypertrophied human and rat hearts. Myotrophin (whose gene is localized on human chromosome 7q33) stimulates myocyte growth and participates in cellular interaction that initiates cardiac hypertrophy in vitro. In this report, we present data on the pathophysiological significance of myotrophin in vivo, showing the effects of overexpression of cardio-specific myotrophin in transgenic mice in which cardiac hypertrophy occurred by 4 weeks of age and progressed to heart failure by 9-12 months. This hypertrophy was associated with increased expression of proto-oncogenes, hypertrophy marker genes, growth factors, and cytokines, with symptoms that mimicked those of human cardiomyopathy, functionally and morphologically. This model provided a unique opportunity to analyze gene clusters that are differentially up-regulated during initiation of hypertrophy versus transition of hypertrophy to heart failure. Importantly, changes in gene expression observed during initiation of hypertrophy were significantly different from those seen during its transition to heart failure. Our data show that overexpression of myotrophin results in initiation of cardiac hypertrophy that progresses to heart failure, similar to changes in human heart failure. Knowledge of the changes that take place as a result of overexpression of myotrophin at both the cellular and molecular levels will suggest novel strategies for treatment to prevent hypertrophy and its progression to heart failure.