YAP1, the nuclear target of Hippo signaling, stimulates heart growth through cardiomyocyte proliferation but not hypertrophy

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 14;109(7):2394-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1116136109. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


Heart growth is tightly controlled so that the heart reaches a predetermined size. Fetal heart growth occurs through cardiomyocyte proliferation, whereas postnatal heart growth involves primarily physiological cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. The Hippo kinase cascade is an important regulator of organ growth. A major target of this kinase cascade is YAP1, a transcriptional coactivator that is inactivated by Hippo kinase activity. Here, we used both genetic gain and loss of Yap1 function to investigate its role in regulating proliferative and physiologic hypertrophic heart growth. Fetal Yap1 inactivation caused marked, lethal myocardial hypoplasia and decreased cardiomyocyte proliferation, whereas fetal activation of YAP1 stimulated cardiomyocyte proliferation. Enhanced proliferation was particularly dramatic in trabecular cardiomyocytes that normally exit from the cell cycle. Remarkably, YAP1 activation was sufficient to stimulate proliferation of postnatal cardiomyocytes, both in culture and in the intact heart. A dominant negative peptide that blocked YAP1 binding to TEAD transcription factors inhibited YAP1 proliferative activity, indicating that this activity requires YAP1-TEAD interaction. Although Yap1 was a critical regulator of cardiomyocyte proliferation, it did not influence physiological hypertrophic growth of cardiomyocytes, because postnatal Yap1 gain or loss of function did not significantly alter cardiomyocyte size. These studies demonstrate that Yap1 is a crucial regulator of cardiomyocyte proliferation, cardiac morphogenesis, and myocardial trabeculation. Activation of Yap1 in postnatal cardiomyocytes may be a useful strategy to stimulate cardiomyocyte expansion in therapeutic myocardial regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cardiomegaly / metabolism*
  • Genes, cdc
  • Heart / growth & development*
  • Myocardium / cytology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Yap protein, rat
  • Stk3 protein, rat
  • Stk4 protein, rat
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE33019