Reduced activin receptor-like kinase 1 activity promotes cardiac fibrosis in heart failure

Cardiovasc Pathol. Nov-Dec 2017;31:26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.carpath.2017.07.004. Epub 2017 Jul 18.


Introduction: Activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ALK1) mediates signaling via the transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1), a pro-fibrogenic cytokine. No studies have defined a role for ALK1 in heart failure.

Hypothesis: We tested the hypothesis that reduced ALK1 expression promotes maladaptive cardiac remodeling in heart failure.

Methods and results: In patients with advanced heart failure referred for left ventricular (LV) assist device implantation, LV Alk1 mRNA and protein levels were lower than control LV obtained from patients without heart failure. To investigate the role of ALK1 in heart failure, Alk1 haploinsufficient (Alk1+/-) and wild-type (WT) mice were studied 2 weeks after severe transverse aortic constriction (TAC). LV and lung weights were higher in Alk1+/- mice after TAC. Cardiomyocyte area and LV mRNA levels of brain natriuretic peptide and β-myosin heavy chain were increased similarly in Alk1+/- and WT mice after TAC. Alk-1 mice exhibited reduced Smad 1 phosphorylation and signaling compared to WT mice after TAC. Compared to WT, LV fibrosis and Type 1 collagen mRNA and protein levels were higher in Alk1+/- mice. LV fractional shortening was lower in Alk1+/- mice after TAC.

Conclusions: Reduced expression of ALK1 promotes cardiac fibrosis and impaired LV function in a murine model of heart failure. Further studies examining the role of ALK1 and ALK1 inhibitors on cardiac remodeling are required.

Keywords: Activin receptor like kinase 1; Cardiac fibrosis; Heart failure; Transforming growth factor beta.

MeSH terms

  • Activin Receptors, Type I / metabolism
  • Activin Receptors, Type II / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Heart Failure / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Ventricular Remodeling / physiology*


  • ACVRL1 protein, human
  • Activin Receptors, Type I
  • Activin Receptors, Type II
  • Acvrl1 protein, mouse