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Title: Metabolic modulation through deletion of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α and fumarate hydratase in the heart
Author: Steeples, Violetta Rae
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 1601
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) plays a critical role in the oxygen homeostasis of all metazoans. HIF-1α is a master transcriptional regulator which coordinates the adaptive response to low oxygen tension. Through activation of a plethora of downstream target genes, HIF-1α facilitates oxygenation by promoting angiogenesis and blood vessel dilation, in addition to modulating metabolic pathways to inhibit oxidative phosphorylation and promote glycolytic energy production. Given the critical roles of hypoxia, insufficient blood supply and perturbed energetics in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders, notably ischaemic heart disease, therapeutic modulation of HIF-1α is of significant clinical interest. Previous studies have demonstrated an acute cardioprotective role for both endogenous and supraphysiological HIF-1α signalling in the context of myocardial ischaemia. In contrast, chronic supraphysiological HIF-1α activation in the unstressed heart has been shown to induce cardiac dysfunction. To address the effect of chronic endogenous HIF-1α activation post-myocardial infarction (MI), the present work employed a murine coronary artery ligation (CAL) model in conjunction with temporally-inducible, cardiac-specific deletion of Hif-1α. While CAL surgery successfully modelled myocardial infarction – eliciting substantial adverse cardiac remodelling and contractile dysfunction – there was no evidence of chronic HIF-1α activation by CAL in HIF knockout or control left ventricular samples. In keeping with this, chronic ablation of Hif-1α (from 2 weeks post-CAL) had no discernible additional effect upon cardiac function. Overall, these findings do not support a potential therapeutic role for inhibition of HIF-1α signalling in the chronic phase post-MI. The fundamental tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle enzyme fumarate hydratase (FH) converts fumarate to malate. FH deficiency is associated with smooth muscle and kidney tumours which exhibit normoxic HIF signalling due to fumarate accumulation. To investigate the potential for fumarate accumulation to elicit protective HIF signalling, a cardiac-specific Fh1 null mouse was developed through Cre-loxP recombination. Strikingly, despite interruption of the TCA cycle in a highly metabolically demanding organ, cardiac Fh1 null mice were viable, fertile and survived into adulthood, demonstrating the remarkable metabolic plasticity of the heart. However, by 3-4 months Fh1 null mice develop a lethal cardiomyopathy characterised by cardiac hypertrophy, ventricular dilatation and contractile dysfunction. Despite lack of a pseudohypoxic response, Fh1 null hearts did exhibit another phenomenon observed in FH-deficient cancers and also attributed to fumarate accumulation – activation of the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (NRF2) antioxidant pathway. Heterozygous, but not homozygous, somatic deletion of Nrf2 extended the life expectancy of cardiac Fh1 null mice. Exploration of redox status revealed a more reductive environment in Fh1 null hearts than controls. As a corollary, inhibition of the rate limiting enzyme of the pentose phosphate pathway – a major source of cellular reducing equivalents – with dehydroepiandrosterone conferred striking amelioration of the Fh1 null cardiomyopathy, suggesting a possible pathogenic role for reductive stress. While loss of mitochondrial Fh1 activity and subsequent TCA cycle dysfunction likely contribute to the Fh1 null phenotype, the importance of cytosolic FH was unclear. To clarify this, FH was expressed specifically in the cytosol in vivo. This was sufficient to substantially rescue the Fh1 null cardiomyopathy, supporting a role for cytosolic FH disruption in its pathogenesis. Taken together, these findings highlight the potential for reductive stress to contribute to cardiac dysfunction and suggest a function for cytosolic FH in cardiac metabolic homeostasis.
Supervisor: Ashrafian, Houman; Watkins, Hugh Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Metabolism ; Cardiovascular disease ; Genetics (medical sciences) ; Hypoxia-inducible factor ; fumarate hydratase ; cardiac metabolism