In the mammalian heart, the left ventricle (LV) rapidly becomes more dominant in size and function over the right ventricle (RV) after birth. The molecular regulators responsible for this chamber-specific differential growth are largely unknown. We found that cardiomyocytes in the neonatal mouse RV had lower proliferation, more apoptosis, and a smaller average size compared with the LV. This chamber-specific growth pattern was associated with a selective activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity in the RV and simultaneous inactivation in the LV. Cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of both the Mapk14 and Mapk11 genes in mice resulted in loss of p38 MAPK expression and activity in the neonatal heart. Inactivation of p38 activity led to a marked increase in cardiomyocyte proliferation and hypertrophy but diminished cardiomyocyte apoptosis, specifically in the RV. Consequently, the p38-inactivated hearts showed RV-specific enlargement postnatally, progressing to pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure at the adult stage. Chamber-specific p38 activity was associated with differential expression of dual-specific phosphatases (DUSPs) in neonatal hearts, including DUSP26. Unbiased transcriptome analysis revealed that IRE1α/XBP1-mediated gene regulation contributed to p38 MAPK-dependent regulation of neonatal cardiomyocyte proliferation and binucleation. These findings establish an obligatory role of DUSP/p38/ IRE1α signaling in cardiomyocytes for chamber-specific growth in the postnatal heart.
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