JOURNAL ARTICLE

Haplodeficiency of activin receptor-like kinase 4 alleviates myocardial infarction-induced cardiac fibrosis and preserves cardiac function

Yi-He Chen, Qian Wang, Chang-Yi Li, Jian-Wen Hou, Xiao-Meng Chen, Qing Zhou, Jie Chen, Yue-Peng Wang, Yi-Gang Li
Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 2017, 105: 1-11
28214509
Cardiac fibrosis (CF), a repairing process following myocardial infarction (MI), is characterized by abnormal proliferation of cardiac fibroblasts and excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) resulting in inevitable resultant heart failure. TGF-β (transforming growth factor-β)/ALK5 (Activin receptor-like kinase 5)/Smad2/3/4 pathways have been reported to be involved in the process. Recent studies have implicated both activin and its specific downstream component ALK4 in stimulating fibrosis in non-cardiac organs. We recently reported that ALK4 is upregulated in the pressure-overloaded heart and its partial inhibition attenuated the pressure overload-induced CF and cardiac dysfunction. However, the role of ALK4 in the pathogenesis of MI-induced CF, which is usually more severe than that induced by pressure-overload, remains unknown. Here we report: 1) In a wild-type mouse model of MI, ALK4 upregulation was restricted in the fibroblasts of the infarct border zone; 2) In contrast, ALK4+/- mice with a haplodeficiency of ALK4 gene, showed a significantly attenuated CF in the border zone, with a smaller scar size, a preserved cardiac function and an improved survival rate post-MI; 3) Similarly to pressure-overloaded heart, these beneficial effects might be through a partial inactivation of the Smad3/4 pathway but not MAPK cascades; 4) The apoptotic rate of the cardiomyocytes were indistinguishable in the border zone of the wild-type control and ALK4+/- mice; 5) Cardiac fibroblasts isolated from ALK4+/- mice showed reduced migration, proliferation and ECM synthesis in response to hypoxia. These results indicate that partial inhibition of ALK4 may reduce MI-induced CF, suggesting ALK4 as a novel target for inhibition of unfavorable CF and for preservation of LV systolic function induced by not only pressure-overload but also MI.

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