Evolutionarily conserved signaling intermediate in Toll pathways (ECSIT) is a protein with roles in early development, activation of the transcription factor NF-κB, and production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS) that facilitates clearance of intracellular bacteria like Salmonella. ECSIT is also an important assembly factor for mitochondrial complex I. Unlike the murine form of Ecsit (mEcsit), we demonstrate here that human ECSIT (hECSIT) is highly labile. To explore whether the instability of hECSIT affects functions previously ascribed to its murine counterpart, we created a potentially novel transgenic mouse in which the murine Ecsit gene is replaced by the human ECSIT gene. The humanized mouse has low levels of hECSIT protein, in keeping with its intrinsic instability. Whereas low-level expression of hECSIT was capable of fully compensating for mEcsit in its roles in early development and activation of the NF-κB pathway, macrophages from humanized mice showed impaired clearance of Salmonella that was associated with reduced production of mROS. Notably, severe cardiac hypertrophy was manifested in aging humanized mice, leading to premature death. The cellular and molecular basis of this phenotype was delineated by showing that low levels of human ECSIT protein led to a marked reduction in assembly and activity of mitochondrial complex I with impaired oxidative phosphorylation and reduced production of ATP. Cardiac tissue from humanized hECSIT mice also showed reduced mitochondrial fusion and more fission but impaired clearance of fragmented mitochondria. A cardiomyocyte-intrinsic role for Ecsit in mitochondrial function and cardioprotection is also demonstrated. We also show that cardiac fibrosis and damage in humans correlated with low expression of human ECSIT. In summary, our findings identify a role for ECSIT in cardioprotection, while generating a valuable experimental model to study mitochondrial dysfunction and cardiac pathophysiology.


Linan Xu, Fiachra Humphries, Nezira Delagic, Bingwei Wang, Ashling Holland, Kevin S. Edgar, Jose R. Hombrebueno, Donna Beer Stolz, Ewa Oleszycka, Aoife M. Rodgers, Nadezhda Glezeva, Kenneth McDonald, Chris J. Watson, Mark T. Ledwidge, Rebecca J. Ingram, David J. Grieve, Paul N. Moynagh


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