Autophagy and Inflammasome Activation in Dilated Cardiomyopathy

J Clin Med. 2019 Sep 21;8(10):1519. doi: 10.3390/jcm8101519.


Background: The clinical outcome of patients affected by dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is heterogeneous, since its pathophysiology is only partially understood. Interleukin 1β levels could predict the mortality and necessity of cardiac transplantation of DCM patients.

Objective: To investigate mechanisms triggering sterile inflammation in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Methods: Hearts explanted from 62 DCM patients were compared with 30 controls, employing immunohistochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, as well as metabolomics studies.

Results: Although misfolded protein accumulation and aggresome formation characterize DCM hearts, aggresomes failed to trigger the autophagy lysosomal pathway (ALP), with consequent accumulation of both p62SQSTM1 and dysfunctional mitochondria. In line, DCM hearts are characterized by accumulation of lipoperoxidation products and activation of both redox responsive pathways and inflammasome. Consistently with the fact that mTOR signaling may impair ALP, we observed, an increase in DCM activation, together with a reduction in the nuclear localization of Transcription Factor EB -TFEB- (a master regulator of lysosomal biogenesis). These alterations were coupled with metabolomic alterations, including accumulation of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), known mTOR activators. Consistently, reduced levels of PP2Cm, a phosphatase that regulates the key catabolic step of BCAAs, coupled with increased levels of miR-22, a regulator of PP2Cm levels that triggers senescence, characterize DCM hearts. The same molecular defects were present in clinically relevant cells isolated from DCM hearts, but they could be reverted by downregulating miR-22.

Conclusion: We identified, in human DCM, a complex series of events whose key players are miR-22, PP2Cm, BCAA, mTOR, and ALP, linking loss of proteostasis with inflammasome activation. These potential therapeutic targets deserve to be further investigated.

Keywords: Dilated cardiomyopathy; autophagy; branched chain amino acids; inflammasome; interleukin 1 β; mechanistic target of rapamycin.