Rac1 Signaling Is Critical to Cardiomyocyte Polarity and Embryonic Heart Development

C Leung, etc
Journal of the American Heart Association, 2014

Background Defects in cardiac septation are the most common form of congenital heart disease, but the mechanisms underlying these defects are still poorly understood. The small GTPase Rac1 is implicated in planar cell polarity of epithelial cells in Drosophila; however, its role in mammalian cardiomyocyte polarity is not clear. We tested the hypothesis that Rac1 signaling in the second heart field regulates cardiomyocyte polarity, chamber septation, and right ventricle development during embryonic heart development.

Methods and Results Mice with second heart field–specific deficiency of Rac1 (Rac1SHF) exhibited ventricular and atrial septal defects, a thinner right ventricle myocardium, and a bifid cardiac apex. Fate-mapping analysis showed that second heart field contribution to the interventricular septum and right ventricle was deficient in Rac1SHF hearts. Notably, cardiomyocytes had a spherical shape with disrupted F-actin filaments in Rac1SHF compared with elongated and well-aligned cardiomyocytes in littermate controls. Expression of Scrib, a core protein in planar cell polarity, was lost in Rac1SHF hearts with decreased expression of WAVE and Arp2/3, leading to decreased migratory ability. In addition, Rac1-deficient neonatal cardiomyocytes displayed defects in cell projections, lamellipodia formation, and cell elongation. Furthermore, apoptosis was increased and the expression of Gata4, Tbx5, Nkx2.5, and Hand2 transcription factors was decreased in the Rac1SHF right ventricle myocardium.

Conclusions Deficiency of Rac1 in the second heart field impairs elongation and cytoskeleton organization of cardiomyocytes and results in congenital septal defects, thin right ventricle myocardium, and a bifid cardiac apex. Our study suggests that Rac1 signaling is critical to cardiomyocyte polarity and embryonic heart development.

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Journal of the American Heart Association
University of Western Ontario