Discovery of cellular processes which regulate heart's energy supply

May 09, 2007

The heart needs a steady supply of energy to function properly. MUHC researcher Dr. Vincent Gigure's and his colleagues recently identified several genetic programs which work together to ensure this energy is available. Dr. Gigure's findings, published in the May 2007 issue of Cell Metabolism, may suggest new approaches to the management of some forms of heart disease.

"The heart is a pump," says Dr. Gigure's. "It needs energy, and it gets this from different fuels found in the body "glucose or fatty acids" depending on availability. We've identified two new receptors that control the whole setup. This is very exciting."

Dr. Gigure's and his fellow researchers discovered that two closely related nuclear receptors known as ERRa and g play an essential role in coordinating the expression of a set of proteins that the heart requires to produce the energy it needs to pump effectively.

"Nuclear receptors receive signals from different parts of the body," explains Dr. Gigure's. "These signals "tell" the cell what action to take by controlling which genetic program will be turned on or off in the cell. Because the ERRa and g receptors are so important to heart function, drugs that influence their activity might offer a novel approach to managing diseases of the heart muscle."

The receptors identified by Dr. Gigure's and his colleagues had already been linked to the activity of cellular power plants called mitochondria. However, their exact role in supplying energy to the heart muscle had not previously been understood.

Using powerful genomic tools, researchers discovered that the ERRa and g receptors play a key role in regulating the genes which guide the complex biological processes fuelling the heart. Because of this, the two receptors are essential to heart function.

"The receptors control some 400 genes, and probably more," Dr. Gigure's says. "These genes regulate well-defined energy pathways. Several have also been linked to disorders which affect the heart's pumping power. This discovery was "the cherry on the sundae" for us."

If it can be shown that the activity of these two ERR receptors can be safely modulated in the human heart, drugs targeting these receptors may hold promise for novel heart therapies. "There are not many ways to prevent heart failure, but molecules that act on these receptors might be one," says Dr. Gigure's.

Source: McGill University

Explore further: Scientists pioneer microscopy technique that yields fresh data on muscular dystrophy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tiny biomolecular tweezers studying force effect of cells

Apr 03, 2014

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices—too small to see without a microscope—use opposing ...

Shedding light on chemistry with a biological twist

Mar 15, 2013

(Phys.org) —Many of life's processes rely on light to trigger a chemical change. Photosynthesis, vision, the movement of light-seeking or light-avoiding bacteria, for instance, all exploit photochemistry. ...

Recommended for you

Connection found between birth size and brain disorders

21 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers has found what appears to be a clear connection between birth size and weight, and the two brain disorders, autism and schizophrenia. In their paper published in Proceedings of ...

A novel therapy for sepsis?

Sep 16, 2014

A University of Tokyo research group has discovered that pentatraxin 3 (PTX3), a protein that helps the innate immune system target invaders such as bacteria and viruses, can reduce mortality of mice suffering ...

User comments : 0