In vitro studies using rat and fetal sheep cardiomyocytes indicate that, in addition to its role as a clearance receptor, the insulin-like growth factor 2 receptor (IGF-2R) can induce cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. In the present study, we have determined the effect of specific activation of the IGF-2R in the heart of the late gestation fetus on cardiomyocyte development. Leu27IGF-2, an IGF-2R agonist, was infused into the fetal left circumflex coronary artery for 4 days beginning at 128.1 ± 0.4 days gestation. Ewes were humanely killed at 132.2 ± 1.2 days gestation (term, 150 days). Fetuses were delivered and hearts dissected to isolate the cardiomyocytes and to collect and snap-freeze tissue. Leu27IGF-2 infusion into the left circumflex coronary artery of fetal sheep increased the area of binucleated cardiomyocytes in the left, but not the right, ventricle. However, this infusion of Leu27IGF-2 did not change fetal weight, heart weight, blood pressure, blood gases or cardiomyocyte proliferation/binucleation. The increase in cardiomyocyte size in the Leu27IGF-2-infused group was associated with increased expression of proteins in the Gαs, but not the Gαq, signalling pathway. We concluded that infusion of Leu27IGF-2 into the left circumflex coronary artery causes cardiac IGF-2R activation in the left ventricle of the heart, and this stimulates cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in a Gαs-dependent manner.
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