Widespread changes in cardiac gene expression occur during heart failure, yet the mechanisms responsible for coordinating these changes remain poorly understood. The Mediator complex represents a nodal point for modulating transcription by bridging chromatin-bound transcription factors with RNA polymerase II activity; it is reversibly regulated by its cyclin-dependent kinase 8 (Cdk8) kinase submodule. Here, we identified increased Cdk8 protein expression in human failing heart explants and determined the consequence of this increase in cardiac-specific Cdk8-expressing mice. Transgenic Cdk8 overexpression resulted in progressive dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and premature lethality. Prior to functional decline, left ventricular cardiomyocytes were dramatically elongated, with disorganized transverse tubules and dysfunctional calcium handling. RNA sequencing results showed that myofilament gene isoforms not typically expressed in adult cardiomyocytes were enriched, while oxidative phosphorylation and fatty acid biosynthesis genes were downregulated. Interestingly, candidate upstream transcription factor expression levels and MAPK signaling pathways thought to determine cardiomyocyte size remained relatively unaffected, suggesting that Cdk8 functions within a novel growth regulatory pathway. Our findings show that manipulating cardiac gene expression through increased Cdk8 levels is detrimental to the heart by establishing a transcriptional program that induces pathological remodeling and eccentric hypertrophy culminating in heart failure.
Duane D. Hall, Jessica M. Ponce, Biyi Chen, Kathryn M. Spitler, Adrianne Alexia, Gavin Y. Oudit, Long-Sheng Song, Chad E. Grueter
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.