Rat and sheep cardiac myocytes become binucleate as they complete the 'terminal differentiation' process soon after birth and are not able to divide thereafter. Angiotensin II (Ang II) is known to stimulate hypertrophic changes in rodent cardiomyocytes under both in vivo and in vitro conditions via the AT1 receptor and intracellular extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) signalling cascade. We sought to develop culture methods for immature sheep cardiomyocytes in order to test the hypothesis that Ang II is a hypertrophic agent in the immature myocardium of the sheep. We isolated fetal sheep cardiomyocytes and cultured them for 96 h, added Ang II and phenylephrine (PE) for 48 h, and measured footprint area and proliferation (5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) uptake) separately in mono- vs. binucleate myocytes. We found that neither Ang II nor PE changed the footprint area of mononucleated cells. PE stimulated an increase in footprint area of binucleate cells but Ang II did not. Ang II increased myocyte BrdU uptake compared to serum free conditions, but PE did not affect BrdU uptake. The MAP kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor UO126 prevented BrdU uptake in Ang II-stimulated cells and prevented cell hypertrophy in PE-stimulated cells. This paper establishes culture methods for immature sheep cardiomyocytes and reports that: (1) Ang II is not a hypertrophic agent; (2) Ang II stimulates hyperplastic growth among mononucleate myocytes; (3) PE is a hypertrophic agent in binucleate myocytes; and (4) the ERK cascade is required for the proliferation effect of Ang II and the hypertrophic effect of PE.
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