Aims: Adult mammalian cardiomyocytes are traditionally viewed as being permanently withdrawn from the cell cycle. Whereas some groups have reported none, others have reported extensive mitosis in adult myocardium under steady-state conditions. Recently, a highly specific assay of 14C dating in humans has suggested a continuous generation of cardiomyocytes in the adult, albeit at a very low rate. Mice represent the most commonly used animal model for these studies, but their short lifespan makes them unsuitable for 14C studies. Herein, we investigate the cellular growth pattern for murine cardiomyocyte growth under steady-state conditions, addressed with new analytical and technical strategies, and we furthermore relate this to gene expression patterns.
Methods and results: The observed levels of DNA synthesis in early life were associated with cardiomyocyte proliferation. Mitosis was prolonged into early life, longer than the most conservative previous estimates. DNA synthesis in neonatal life was attributable to bi-nucleation, therefore suggesting that cardiomyocytes withdraw from the cell cycle shortly after birth. No cell cycle activity was observed in adult cardiomyocytes and significant polyploidy was observed in cardiomyocyte nuclei.
Conclusion: Gene analyses identified 32 genes whose expression was predicted to be particular to day 3-4 neonatal myocytes, compared with embryonic or adult cells. These cell cycle-associated genes are crucial to the understanding of the mechanisms of bi-nucleation and physiological cellular growth in the neonatal period.