Background: Caveolae, lipid-rich microdomains of the sarcolemma, localize and enrich cardiac-protective signaling molecules. Caveolin-3 (Cav-3), the dominant isoform in cardiac myocytes, is a determinant of caveolar formation. We hypothesized that cardiac myocyte-specific overexpression of Cav-3 would enhance the formation of caveolae and augment cardiac protection in vivo.
Methods and results: Ischemic preconditioning in vivo increased the formation of caveolae. Adenovirus for Cav-3 increased caveolar formation and phosphorylation of survival kinases in cardiac myocytes. A transgenic mouse with cardiac myocyte-specific overexpression of Cav-3 (Cav-3 OE) showed enhanced formation of caveolae on the sarcolemma. Cav-3 OE mice subjected to ischemia/reperfusion injury had a significantly reduced infarct size relative to transgene-negative mice. Endogenous cardiac protection in Cav-3 OE mice was similar to wild-type mice undergoing ischemic preconditioning; no increased protection was observed in preconditioned Cav-3 OE mice. Cav-3 knockout mice did not show endogenous protection and showed no protection in response to ischemic preconditioning. Cav-3 OE mouse hearts had increased basal Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3beta phosphorylation comparable to wild-type mice exposed to ischemic preconditioning. Wortmannin, a phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor, attenuated basal phosphorylation of Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3beta and blocked cardiac protection in Cav-3 OE mice. Cav-3 OE mice had improved functional recovery and reduced apoptosis at 24 hours of reperfusion.
Conclusions: Expression of caveolin-3 is both necessary and sufficient for cardiac protection, a conclusion that unites long-standing ultrastructural and molecular observations in the ischemic heart. The present results indicate that increased expression of caveolins, apparently via actions that depend on phosphoinositide 3-kinase, has the potential to protect hearts exposed to ischemia/reperfusion injury.