Background: Cardiac-specific deletion of ALK3 is lethal in mid-gestation with ventricular septum malformations (VSM). This study was designed to define the Pax-8's role in heart development and cardiomyocyte apoptosis.
Methods: Pathologic changes in the hearts of Pax-8 or ALK3 knockout and wild type control mice were determined by light and electron microscopy. Analysis of cardiomyocyte apoptosis was performed by TUNEL. The effect of Pax-8 gene deficiency on caspase-3 activity was examined after transfecting Pax-8 siRNA into cultured myoblast cell line.
Results: Mice with ALK3 or Pax-8 gene knockout but not wild type control animals showed the development of VSM. Increased cardiomyocyte apoptosis was found in homozygotes. Echocardiography showed that Pax-8 homozygote mice developed malfunction of the heart. Furthermore, the caspase-3 activity was significantly higher in the cells treated with Pax-8 siRNA as compared to those treated with negative control siRNA in H9C2 (2-1) cell line.
Conclusions: The Pax-8 gene may play a crucial role in heart development and regulating cardiocyte apoptosis. Knockout of Pax-8 may exert a similar effect on myocardial morphology and apoptosis as those seen in ALK3 knockouts. Furthermore, the ventricular septum malformations could be partially attributed to accelerated cardiomyocyte apoptosis.
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