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Dimitri Novitzky and David K C Cooper

Acute critically ill patients experience a rapid decline in plasma free thyroid hormone levels (free triiodothyronine (FT3) and free levothyroxine (FT4)), with a marked elevation of reverse T3, recognized as the euthyroid sick syndrome (ESS) or low-T3 syndrome. The ESS is also often associated with depressed myocardial function, sometimes referred to as the ‘stunned myocardium’. Its clinical effects may vary from minimal hemodynamic impairment to cardiogenic shock. Medical management may range from aspirin alone to placement of a left ventricular assist device. With adequate supportive therapy, recovery usually occurs within days or weeks. The effect of T3/T4 therapy has been studied in three conditions in which the ESS and myocardial functional depression have been documented – i) transient regional myocardial ischemia and reperfusion, ii) transient global myocardial ischemia in patients undergoing cardiac surgery on cardiopulmonary bypass, and iii) transient inadequate global myocardial perfusion in brain-dead potential organ donors. Under all three conditions, myocardial ischemia leads to rapid loss of high-energy phosphates, accumulation of myocardial tissue lactate, and probably loss of homeostasis of cytosolic calcium, which may further increase cell injury. There is an inability to generate ATP through the Krebs cycle, which reduces the high-energy phosphate pool essential for all cell ATPases. Under all three conditions, following administration of T3/T4, the myocardial dysfunction was rapidly reversed. We, therefore, cautiously advocate the use of thyroid hormonal therapy to any patient with the ESS and/or a stunned myocardium.

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Experiments on rats indicate that:

1. Permanent unilateral renal ischaemia (the 'endocrine kidney') plus administration of Na2HPO4 produces a characteristic cardiovascular-renal syndrome consisting of two basic types of lesions: (a) cardiac hyalinization (with periarteritis), and (b) infarct-like myocardial necrosis. The non-ischaemic kidney reveals severe calcification.

2. Adrenalectomy does not significantly alter this pathological pattern.

3. Hypophysectomy prevents the hyalinization and periarteritis, inhibits nephrocalcinosis, but does not affect the infarct-like necroses.

4. The endocrine-kidney syndrome, both in its appearance and in its response to pituitary and adrenal influence, is identical with the cardiovascular manifestations of an overdosage of mineralocorticoids.

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Jennifer J DuPont and Iris Z Jaffe

Since the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) was cloned 30 years ago, it has become clear that MR is expressed in extra-renal tissues, including the cardiovascular system, where it is expressed in all cells of the vasculature. Understanding the role of MR in the vasculature has been of particular interest as clinical trials show that MR antagonism improves cardiovascular outcomes out of proportion to changes in blood pressure. The last 30 years of research have demonstrated that MR is a functional hormone-activated transcription factor in vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells. This review summarizes advances in our understanding of the role of vascular MR in regulating blood pressure and vascular function, and its contribution to vascular disease. Specifically, vascular MR contributes directly to blood pressure control and to vascular dysfunction and remodeling in response to hypertension, obesity and vascular injury. The literature is summarized with respect to the role of vascular MR in conditions including: pulmonary hypertension; cerebral vascular remodeling and stroke; vascular inflammation, atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction; acute kidney injury; and vascular pathology in the eye. Considerations regarding the impact of age and sex on the function of vascular MR are also described. Further investigation of the precise molecular mechanisms by which MR contributes to these processes will aid in the identification of novel therapeutic targets to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related morbidity and mortality.

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Harn-Shen Chen, Jia Jia, Hou-Fen Su, Hong-Da Lin, Jaw-Wen Chen, Shing-Jong Lin, Jia-Ying Yang, Hui-Chin Lai, Ruben Mestril and Ping H Wang

The 70 kDa heat shock protein family plays important cardiac protective roles against myocardial injuries. Reduced myocardial protection is a common feature of diabetic myocardium. This study was carried out to define the changes in the 70 kDa heat shock protein family in the myocardium in the of streptozotocin-diabetes rats, and to explore the mechanisms through which diabetes alters the abundance of Hsp70/Hsc70 in cardiac muscle. In the diabetic myocardium, the abundance of Hsc70 was significantly reduced. The abundance of Hsp70 was low in cardiac muscle and was not induced in the diabetic myocardium. Unlike Hsp60, Hsp70 and Hsc70 did not augment insulin-like growth factor-I receptor signaling in cardiac muscle cells. In cultured cardiomyocytes, insulin directly increased the abundance of Hsc70, whereas insulin could not modulate Hsp70. Treating diabetic rats with insulin restored myocardial Hsc70 level, but phlorizin treatment failed to restore myocardial Hsc70. These in vivo and in vitro studies showed that downregulation of Hsc70 in diabetic myocardium was secondary to insulin deficiency. Thus, insulin played a major role in maintaining adequate expression of Hsc70 in cardiac muscle.

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Pongpan Tanajak, Siriporn C Chattipakorn and Nipon Chattipakorn

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a novel polypeptide ligand that has been shown to be involved in several physiological and pathological processes including regulation of glucose and lipids as well as reduction of arteriosclerotic plaque formation in the great vessels. It has also been shown to exert cardioprotective effects in myocardial infarction, cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury, cardiac hypertrophy and diabetic cardiomyopathy. Moreover, FGF21 protects the myocardium and great arteries by attenuating remodeling, inflammation, oxidative stress and also promoting the energy supply to the heart through fatty acid β-oxidation. This growing evidence emphasizes the important roles of FGF21 in cardioprotection. This review comprehensively summarizes and discusses the consistent and inconsistent findings regarding the beneficial effects of FGF21 on the heart available from both basic research and clinical reports. The details of the signaling, biological and pharmacological effects of FGF21 with regard to its protection of the heart are also presented and discussed in this review.

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Fengyue Wang, Jing Yang, Junfeng Sun, Yanli Dong, Hong Zhao, Hui Shi and Lu Fu

Testosterone can affect cardiovascular disease, but its effects on mitochondrial dynamics in the post-infarct myocardium remain unclear. To observe the effects of testosterone replacement, a rat model of castration-myocardial infarction (MI) was established by ligating the left anterior descending coronary artery 2 weeks after castration with or without testosterone treatment. Expression of mitochondrial fission and fusion proteins was detected by western blot and immunofluorescence 14 days after MI. Cardiac function, myocardial inflammatory infiltration and fibrosis, cardiomyocyte apoptosis, mitochondrial microstructure, and ATP levels were also assessed. Compared with MI rats, castrated rats showed aggravated mitochondrial and myocardial insults, including mitochondrial swelling and disordered arrangement; loss of cristae, reduced mitochondrial length; decreased ATP levels; cardiomyocyte apoptosis; and impaired cardiac function. Results of western blotting analyses indicated that castration downregulated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC1A) and mitofusin 2, but upregulated dynamin-related protein 1. The results were also supported by results obtained using immunofluorescence. However, these detrimental effects were reversed by testosterone supplementation, which also elevated the upstream AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activation of PGC1A. Thus, testosterone can protect mitochondria in the post-infarct myocardium, partly via the AMPK–PGC1A pathway, thereby decreasing mitochondrial dysfunction and cardiomyocyte apoptosis. The effects of testosterone were confirmed by the results of ELISA analyses.

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Katie J Mylonas, Neil A Turner, Sumia A Bageghni, Christopher J Kenyon, Christopher I White, Kieran McGregor, Robert A Kimmitt, Richard Sulston, Valerie Kelly, Brian R Walker, Karen E Porter, Karen E Chapman and Gillian A Gray

We have previously demonstrated that neutrophil recruitment to the heart following myocardial infarction (MI) is enhanced in mice lacking 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) that regenerates active glucocorticoid within cells from intrinsically inert metabolites. The present study aimed to identify the mechanism of regulation. In a mouse model of MI, neutrophil mobilization to blood and recruitment to the heart were higher in 11β-HSD1-deficient (Hsd11b1 / ) relative to wild-type (WT) mice, despite similar initial injury and circulating glucocorticoid. In bone marrow chimeric mice, neutrophil mobilization was increased when 11β-HSD1 was absent from host cells, but not when absent from donor bone marrow-derived cells. Consistent with a role for 11β-HSD1 in ‘host’ myocardium, gene expression of a subset of neutrophil chemoattractants, including the chemokines Cxcl2 and Cxcl5, was selectively increased in the myocardium of Hsd11b1 / mice relative to WT. SM22α-Cre directed disruption of Hsd11b1 in smooth muscle and cardiomyocytes had no effect on neutrophil recruitment. Expression of Cxcl2 and Cxcl5 was elevated in fibroblast fractions isolated from hearts of Hsd11b1 / mice post MI and provision of either corticosterone or of the 11β-HSD1 substrate, 11-dehydrocorticosterone, to cultured murine cardiac fibroblasts suppressed IL-1α-induced expression of Cxcl2 and Cxcl5. These data identify suppression of CXCL2 and CXCL5 chemoattractant expression by 11β-HSD1 as a novel mechanism with potential for regulation of neutrophil recruitment to the injured myocardium, and cardiac fibroblasts as a key site for intracellular glucocorticoid regeneration during acute inflammation following myocardial injury.

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G Lombardi, A Colao, P Marzullo, D Ferone, S Longobardi, V Esposito and B Merola

At present, there is growing evidence implicating GH and/or IGF-I in the intricate cascade of events connected with the regulation of heart development and hypertrophy. Moreover, GH excess and/or deficiency have been shown to include in their advanced clinical manifestations almost always an impaired cardiac function, which may reduce life expectancy. This finding is related both to a primitive impairment of heart structure and function and to metabolic changes such as hyperlipidemia, increase of body fat and premature atherosclerosis. Patients with childhood or adulthood-onset GH deficiency have a reduced left ventricular mass and ejection fraction and the indexes of left ventricular systolic function remain markedly depressed during exercise. Conversely, in acromegaly the cardiac enlargement, which is disproportionate to the increase in size of other internal body organs, has been a rather uniform finding. The severity of the acromegalic cardiomyopathy was reported to be correlated better with the disease duration than with circulating GH and/or IGF-I levels. Myocardial hypertrophy with interstitial fibrosis, lymphomononuclear infiltration and areas of monocyte necrosis often results in concentric hypertrophy of both ventricles. The treatment of GH deficiency and excess improved cardiac function. Interestingly, based on the evidence that GH increases cardiac mass, recombinant GH was administered to patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. It increased the myocardial mass and reduced the size of the left ventricular chamber, resulting in improvement of hemodynamics, myocardial energy metabolism and clinical status. These promising results open new perspectives for the use of GH in heart failure.

Journal of Endocrinology (1997) 155, S33–S37

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Prapawadee Pirompol, Vassana Teekabut, Wattana Weerachatyanukul, Tepmanas Bupha-Intr and Jonggonnee Wattanapermpool

Testosterone and androgenic anabolic steroids have been misused for enhancement of physical performance despite many reports on cardiac sudden death. Although physiological level of testosterone provided many regulatory benefits to human health, including the cardiovascular function, supra-physiological levels of the hormone induce hypertrophy of the heart with unclear contractile activation. In this study, dose- and time-dependent effects of high-testosterone treatment on cardiac structure and function were evaluated. Adult male rats were divided into four groups of testosterone treatment for 0, 5, 10, and 20 mg/kg BW for 4, 8, or 12 weeks. Increases in both percentage heart:body weight ratio and cardiomyocyte cross-sectional area in representing hypertrophy of the heart were significantly shown in all testosterone-treated groups to the same degree. In 4-week-treated rats, physiological cardiac hypertrophy was apparent with an upregulation of α-MHC without any change in myofilament contractile activation. In contrast, pathological cardiac hypertrophy was observed in 8- and 12-week testosterone-treated groups, as indicated by suppression of myofilament activation and myocardial collagen deposition without transition of MHC isoforms. Only in 12-week testosterone-treated group, eccentric cardiac hypertrophy was demonstrated with unaltered myocardial stiffness, but significant reductions in the phosphorylation signals of ERK1/2 and mTOR. Results of our study suggest that the outcome of testosterone-induced cardiac hypertrophy is not dose dependent but is rather relied on the factor of exposure to duration in inducing maladaptive responses of the heart.

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Cathy A Guo and Shaodong Guo

The heart is an insulin-dependent and energy-consuming organ in which insulin and nutritional signaling integrates to the regulation of cardiac metabolism, growth and survival. Heart failure is highly associated with insulin resistance, and heart failure patients suffer from the cardiac energy deficiency and structural and functional dysfunction. Chronic pathological conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, involve various mechanisms in promoting heart failure by remodeling metabolic pathways, modulating cardiac energetics and impairing cardiac contractility. Recent studies demonstrated that insulin receptor substrates 1 and 2 (IRS-1,-2) are major mediators of both insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signaling responsible for myocardial energetics, structure, function and organismal survival. Importantly, the insulin receptor substrates (IRS) play an important role in the activation of the phosphatidylinositide-3-dependent kinase (PI-3K) that controls Akt and Foxo1 signaling cascade, regulating the mitochondrial function, cardiac energy metabolism and the renin–angiotensin system. Dysregulation of this branch in signaling cascades by insulin resistance in the heart through the endocrine system promotes heart failure, providing a novel mechanism for diabetic cardiomyopathy. Therefore, targeting this branch of IRS→PI-3K→Foxo1 signaling cascade and associated pathways may provide a fundamental strategy for the therapeutic and nutritional development in control of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. In this review, we focus on insulin signaling and resistance in the heart and the role energetics play in cardiac metabolism, structure and function.