Scientists identify critical enzyme in healthy heart function

Feb 19, 2010

Scientists are reporting the first-ever data to show that the enzyme calcineurin is critical in controlling normal development and function of heart cells, and that loss of the protein leads to heart problems and death in genetically modified mice.

Published Feb. 26 in the as the paper of the week, and posted online Feb. 19, the research was led by scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study demonstrates that calcineurin in hearts of mice is directly linked to proper cardiac muscle contraction, rhythm and maintenance of heart activity. The near total absence of calcineurin in mice leads to heart arrhythmia, failure and death, according to the research team.

Scientists knew previously that calcineurin is important to , but the extent of its role had not been defined prior to the current study. Although the research involved mice, it offers important insights for future studies that could lead to new approaches in diagnosis and treatment of heart patients, said Marjorie Maillet, Ph.D., the study's first author.

"We found that when you eliminate calcineurin, a pool of genes that regulates calcium in the heart went awry. This leads to defects in the growth and proliferation of , heart disease, arrhythmia, loss of contractility and and disease," said Dr. Maillet.

Calcium is also important to cardiac growth and the contraction of . Previous studies have linked abnormalities in calcium handling to , especially in adults. In mice genetically bred for calcineurin deficiency, the researchers saw that this deficiency causes a dramatic reduction in the expression of genes that coordinately regulate calcium-handling and contraction.

The scientists also report a newly identified "feed-forward" mechanism, in which the direct activation of calcineurin by calcium augments the expression of genes that regulate calcium-handling proteins in the heart.

Dr. Maillet works in the laboratory of the study's senior investigator, Jeffery Molkentin, Ph.D., a researcher in the division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology at Cincinnati Children's and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Dr. Molkentin's laboratory and division are also part of the Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute.

Also collaborating on the study were researchers from the University Paris-Sud, Châtenay-Malabry, France and the department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Explore further: Selenium compounds boost immune system to fight against cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Protein identified that helps heart muscle contract

Feb 16, 2010

UCSF researchers have discovered that a protein called B1N1 is necessary for the heart to contract. The findings, published in the Feb. 16 issue of the open access journal PLoS Biology, shed light not only on what makes ...

Recommended for you

Molecules that came in handy for first life on Earth

Nov 24, 2014

For the first time, chemists have successfully produced amino acid-like molecules that all have the same 'handedness', from simple building blocks and in a single test tube. Could this be how life started. ...

Jumping hurdles in the RNA world

Nov 21, 2014

Astrobiologists have shown that the formation of RNA from prebiotic reactions may not be as problematic as scientists once thought.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TrinaPhoenix
not rated yet Mar 15, 2010
Great article - thanks for posting.

For basic info on heart health, including simple self-assessment tests, I suggest visiting Abrazo Healthcare's cardiac services site: http://www.abrazo...iac.aspx

The information provided will be interesting and helpful for anyone looking to learn more about their own heart health.

Take care,
Tphoenix

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.