Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) enhances direct cardiac reprogramming by inhibiting the bromodomain of coactivators CBP/p300

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2021 Jun 17;160:15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2021.06.008. Online ahead of print.


Aims: Direct cardiac reprogramming represents an attractive way to reversing heart damage caused by myocardial infarction because it removes fibroblasts, while also generating new functional cardiomyocytes. Yet, the main hurdle for bringing this technique to the clinic is the lack of efficacy with current reprogramming protocols. Here, we describe our unexpected discovery that DMSO is capable of significantly augmenting direct cardiac reprogramming in vitro.

Methods and results: Upon induction with cardiac transcription factors- Gata4, Hand2, Mef2c and Tbx5 (GHMT), the treatment of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with 1% DMSO induced ~5 fold increase in Myh6-mCherry+ cells, and significantly upregulated global expression of cardiac genes, including Myh6, Ttn, Nppa, Myh7 and Ryr2. RNA-seq confirmed upregulation of cardiac gene programmes and downregulation of extracellular matrix-related genes. Treatment of TGF-β1, DMSO, or SB431542, and the combination thereof, revealed that DMSO most likely targets a separate but parallel pathway other than TGF-β signalling. Subsequent experiments using small molecule screening revealed that DMSO enhances direct cardiac reprogramming through inhibition of the CBP/p300 bromodomain, and not its acetyltransferase property.

Conclusion: In conclusion, our work points to a direct molecular target of DMSO, which can be used for augmenting GHMT-induced direct cardiac reprogramming and possibly other cell fate conversion processes.

Keywords: CBP; Cardiac; DMSO; Dimethyl sulfoxide; Transdifferentiation; p300.