Cardiac dysfunction is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with end-stage liver disease; yet the mechanisms remain largely unknown. We hypothesized that the complex interrelated impairments in cardiac structure and function secondary to progression of liver diseases involve alterations in signaling pathways engaged in cardiac energy metabolism and hypertrophy, augmented by direct effects of high circulating levels of bile acids. Biliary fibrosis was induced in male C57BL/6J mice by feeding a 0.1% 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydroxychollidine (DDC) supplemented diet. After 3 weeks, mice underwent live imaging (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry [DEXA] scanning, two-dimensional echocardiography [2DE], electrocardiography, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging), exercise treadmill testing, and histological and biochemical analyses of livers and hearts. Compared with chow-fed mice, DDC-fed mice fatigued earlier on the treadmill, with reduced VO(2). Marked changes were identified electrophysiologically (bradycardia and prolonged QT interval) and functionally (hyperdynamic left ventricular [LV] contractility along with increased LV thickness). Hearts of DDC-fed mice showed hypertrophic signaling (activation of v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene/protein kinase B [AKT], inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta [GSK3beta], a 20-fold up-regulation of beta myosin heavy chain RNA and elevated G(s)alpha/G(i)alpha ratio. Genes regulating cardiac fatty acid oxidation pathways were suppressed, along with a threefold increase in myocardial glycogen content. Treatment of mouse cardiomyocytes (which express the membrane bile acid receptor TGR5) with potent natural TGR5 agonists, taurochenodeoxycholic acid and lithocholic acid, activated AKT and inhibited GSK3beta, similar to the changes seen in DDC-fed mouse hearts. This provides support for a novel mechanism whereby circulating natural bile acids can induce signaling pathways in heart associated with hypertrophy.
Conclusion: Three weeks of DDC feeding-induced biliary fibrosis leads to multiple functional, metabolic, electrophysiological, and hypertrophic adaptations in the mouse heart, recapitulating some of the features of human cirrhotic cardiomyopathy.