Rationale: Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways provide a critical connection between extrinsic and intrinsic signals to cardiac hypertrophy. Extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK)5, an atypical MAPK is activated in the heart by pressure overload. However, the role of ERK5 plays in regulating hypertrophic growth and hypertrophy-induced apoptosis is not completely understood.
Objective: Herein, we investigate the in vivo role and signaling mechanism whereby ERK5 regulates cardiac hypertrophy and hypertrophy-induced apoptosis.
Methods and Results: We generated and examined the phenotypes of mice with cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of the erk5 gene (ERK5cko). In response to hypertrophic stress, ERK5cko mice developed less hypertrophic growth and fibrosis than controls. However, increased apoptosis together with upregulated expression levels of p53 and Bad were observed in the mutant hearts. Consistently, we found that silencing ERK5 expression or specific inhibition of its kinase activity using BIX02189 in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCMs) reduced myocyte enhancer factor (MEF)2 transcriptional activity and blunted hypertrophic responses. Furthermore, the inhibition of MEF2 activity in NRCMs using a non-DNA binding mutant form of MEF2 was found to attenuate the ERK5-regulated hypertrophic response.
Conclusions: These results reveal an important function of ERK5 in cardiac hypertrophic remodeling and cardiomyocyte survival. The role of ERK5 in hypertrophic remodeling is likely to be mediated via the regulation of MEF2 activity.