Dual role for glucocorticoids in cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and apoptosis

Endocrinology. 2012 Nov;153(11):5346-60. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1563. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Glucocorticoids and their synthetic derivatives are known to alter cardiac function in vivo; however, the nature of these effects and whether glucocorticoids act directly on cardiomyocytes are poorly understood. To explore the role of glucocorticoid signaling in the heart, we used rat embryonic H9C2 cardiomyocytes and primary cardiomyocytes as model systems. Dexamethasone (100 nm) treatment of cardiomyocytes caused a significant increase in cell size and up-regulated the expression of cardiac hypertrophic markers, including atrial natriuretic factor, β-myosin heavy chain, and skeletal muscle α-actin. In contrast, serum deprivation and TNFα exposure triggered cardiomyocyte apoptosis, and these apoptotic effects were inhibited by dexamethasone. Both the hypertrophic and anti-apoptotic actions of glucocorticoids were abolished by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist RU486 and by short hairpin RNA-mediated GR depletion. Blocking the activity of the mineralocorticoid receptor had no effect on these glucocorticoid-dependent cardiomyocyte responses. Aldosterone (1 μm) activation of GR also promoted cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and cell survival. To elucidate the mechanism of the dual glucocorticoid actions, a genome-wide microarray was performed on H9C2 cardiomyocytes treated with vehicle or dexamethasone in the absence or presence of serum. Serum dramatically influenced the transcriptome regulated by GR, revealing potential glucocorticoid signaling mediators in both cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and apoptosis. These studies reveal a direct and dynamic role for glucocorticoids and GR signaling in the modulation of cardiomyocyte function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor / genetics
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Enlargement / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Mifepristone / pharmacology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / genetics
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Mifepristone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor
  • Myosin Heavy Chains