The paucity of knowledge about cardiomyocyte maturation is a major bottleneck in cardiac regenerative medicine. In development, cardiomyocyte maturation is characterized by orchestrated structural, transcriptional, and functional specializations that occur mainly at the perinatal stage. Sarcomeres are the key cytoskeletal structures that regulate the ultrastructural maturation of other organelles, but whether sarcomeres modulate the signal transduction pathways that are essential for cardiomyocyte maturation remains unclear. To address this question, here we generated mice with cardiomyocyte-specific, mosaic, and hypomorphic mutations of α-actinin-2 (Actn2) to study the cell-autonomous roles of sarcomeres in postnatal cardiomyocyte maturation. Actn2 mutation resulted in defective structural maturation of transverse-tubules and mitochondria. In addition, Actn2 mutation triggered transcriptional dysregulation, including abnormal expression of key sarcomeric and mitochondrial genes, and profound impairment of the normal progression of maturational gene expression. Mechanistically, the transcriptional changes in Actn2 mutant cardiomyocytes strongly correlated with those in cardiomyocytes deleted of serum response factor (SRF), a critical transcription factor that regulates cardiomyocyte maturation. Actn2 mutation increased the monomeric form of cardiac α-actin, which interacted with the SRF cofactor MRTFA and perturbed its nuclear localization. Overexpression of a dominant-negative MRTFA mutant was sufficient to recapitulate the morphological and transcriptional defects in Actn2 and Srf mutant cardiomyocytes. Together, these data indicate that Actn2-based sarcomere organization regulates structural and transcriptional maturation of cardiomyocytes through MRTF-SRF signaling.
Keywords: MRTF; SRF; actinin 2; cardiomyocyte maturation; cardiomyopathy.