Reduced Mitochondrial Protein Translation Promotes Cardiomyocyte Proliferation and Heart Regeneration

Circulation. 2023 Dec 5;148(23):1887-1906. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061192. Epub 2023 Oct 31.


Background: The importance of mitochondria in normal heart function are well recognized and recent studies have implicated changes in mitochondrial metabolism with some forms of heart disease. Previous studies demonstrated that knockdown of the mitochondrial ribosomal protein S5 (MRPS5) by small interfering RNA (siRNA) inhibits mitochondrial translation and thereby causes a mitonuclear protein imbalance. Therefore, we decided to examine the effects of MRPS5 loss and the role of these processes on cardiomyocyte proliferation.

Methods: We deleted a single allele of MRPS5 in mice and used left anterior descending coronary artery ligation surgery to induce myocardial damage in these animals. We examined cardiomyocyte proliferation and cardiac regeneration both in vivo and in vitro. Doxycycline treatment was used to inhibit protein translation. Heart function in mice was assessed by echocardiography. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and RNA sequencing were used to assess changes in transcription and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and BioChIP were used to assess chromatin effects. Protein levels were assessed by Western blotting and cell proliferation or death by histology and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assays. Adeno-associated virus was used to overexpress genes. The luciferase reporter assay was used to assess promoter activity. Mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate, ATP levels, and reactive oxygen species were also analyzed.

Results: We determined that deletion of a single allele of MRPS5 in mice results in elevated cardiomyocyte proliferation and cardiac regeneration; this observation correlates with improved cardiac function after induction of myocardial infarction. We identified ATF4 (activating transcription factor 4) as a key regulator of the mitochondrial stress response in cardiomyocytes from Mrps5+/- mice; furthermore, ATF4 regulates Knl1 (kinetochore scaffold 1) leading to an increase in cytokinesis during cardiomyocyte proliferation. The increased cardiomyocyte proliferation observed in Mrps5+/- mice was attenuated when one allele of Atf4 was deleted genetically (Mrps5+/-/Atf4+/-), resulting in the loss in the capacity for cardiac regeneration. Either MRPS5 inhibition (or as we also demonstrate, doxycycline treatment) activate a conserved regulatory mechanism that increases the proliferation of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

Conclusions: These data highlight a critical role for MRPS5/ATF4 in cardiomyocytes and an exciting new avenue of study for therapies to treat myocardial injury.

Keywords: cell division; mitochondria; myocardial infarction; myocytes; regeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Doxycycline
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac* / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Regeneration


  • Doxycycline
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Mitochondrial Proteins