by Christian Leo, Valentina Sala, Mara Morello, Amedeo Chiribiri, Ilan Riess, Daniele Mancardi, Stefano Schiaffino, Carola Ponzetto, Tiziana Crepaldi
The Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) is a pleiotropic cytokine involved in many physiological processes, including skeletal muscle, placenta and liver development. Little is known about its role and that of Met tyrosine kinase receptor in cardiac development. Methodology/Principal Findings
In this study, we generated two transgenic mice with cardiac-specific, tetracycline-suppressible expression of either Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) or the constitutively activated Tpr-Met kinase to explore: i) the effect of stimulation of the endogenous Met receptor by autocrine production of HGF and ii) the consequence of sustained activation of Met signalling in the heart. We first showed that Met is present in the neonatal cardiomyocytes and is responsive to exogenous HGF. Exogenous HGF starting from prenatal stage enhanced cardiac proliferation and reduced sarcomeric proteins and Connexin43 (Cx43) in newborn mice. As adults, these transgenics developed systolic contractile dysfunction. Conversely, prenatal Tpr-Met expression was lethal after birth. Inducing Tpr-Met expression during postnatal life caused early-onset heart failure, characterized by decreased Cx43, upregulation of fetal genes and hypertrophy. Conclusions/Significance
Taken together, our data show that excessive activation of the HGF/Met system in development may result in cardiac damage and suggest that Met signalling may be implicated in the pathogenesis of cardiac disease.