Methyl-CpG binding-protein 2 function in cholinergic neurons mediates cardiac arrhythmogenesis.
ABSTRACT: Sudden unexpected death occurs in one quarter of deaths in Rett Syndrome (RTT), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2). People with RTT show a variety of autonomic nervous system (ANS) abnormalities and mouse models show similar problems including QTc interval prolongation and hypothermia. To explore the role of cardiac problems in sudden death in RTT, we characterized cardiac rhythm in mice lacking Mecp2 function. Male and female mutant mice exhibited spontaneous cardiac rhythm abnormalities including bradycardic events, sinus pauses, atrioventricular block, premature ventricular contractions, non-sustained ventricular arrhythmias, and increased heart rate variability. Death was associated with spontaneous cardiac arrhythmias and complete conduction block. Atropine treatment reduced cardiac arrhythmias in mutant mice, implicating overactive parasympathetic tone. To explore the role of MeCP2 within the parasympathetic neurons, we selectively removed MeCP2 function from cholinergic neurons (MeCP2 ChAT KO), which recapitulated the cardiac rhythm abnormalities, hypothermia, and early death seen in RTT male mice. Conversely, restoring MeCP2 only in cholinergic neurons rescued these phenotypes. Thus, MeCP2 in cholinergic neurons is necessary and sufficient for autonomic cardiac control, thermoregulation, and survival, and targeting the overactive parasympathetic system may be a useful therapeutic strategy to prevent sudden unexpected death in RTT.
Project description:Afferent and efferent cardiac neurotransmission via the cardiac nerves intricately modulates nearly all physiological functions of the heart (chronotropy, dromotropy, lusitropy, and inotropy). Afferent information from the heart is transmitted to higher levels of the nervous system for processing (intrinsic cardiac nervous system, extracardiac-intrathoracic ganglia, spinal cord, brain stem, and higher centers), which ultimately results in efferent cardiomotor neural impulses (via the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves). This system forms interacting feedback loops that provide physiological stability for maintaining normal rhythm and life-sustaining circulation. This system also ensures that there is fine-tuned regulation of sympathetic-parasympathetic balance in the heart under normal and stressed states in the short (beat to beat), intermediate (minutes to hours), and long term (days to years). This important neurovisceral/autonomic nervous system also plays a major role in the pathophysiology and progression of heart disease, including heart failure and arrhythmias leading to sudden cardiac death. Transdifferentiation of neurons in heart failure, functional denervation, cardiac and extracardiac neural remodeling has also been identified and characterized during the progression of disease. Recent advances in understanding the cellular and molecular processes governing innervation and the functional control of the myocardium in health and disease provide a rational mechanistic basis for the development of neuraxial therapies for preventing sudden cardiac death and other arrhythmias. Advances in cellular, molecular, and bioengineering realms have underscored the emergence of this area as an important avenue of scientific inquiry and therapeutic intervention.
Project description:Sudden cardiac death due to abnormal heart rhythm kills 400,000-460,000 Americans each year. To identify genes that regulate heart rhythm, we are developing a screen that uses mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) with gene disruptions that can be differentiated into cardiac cells for phenotyping. Here, we show that the heterozygous disruption of the Akap10 (D-AKAP2) gene that disrupts the final 51 aa increases the contractile response of cultured cardiac cells to cholinergic signals. In both heterozygous and homozygous mutant mice derived from these mESCs, the same Akap10 disruption increases the cardiac response to cholinergic signals, suggesting a dominant interfering effect of the Akap10 mutant allele. The mutant mice have cardiac arrhythmias and die prematurely. We also found that a common variant of AKAP10 in humans (646V, 40% of alleles) was associated with increased basal heart rate and decreased heart rate variability (markers of low cholinergic/vagus nerve sensitivity). These markers predict an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Although the molecular mechanism remains unknown, our findings in mutant mESCs, mice, and a common human AKAP10 SNP all suggest a role for AKAP10 in heart rhythm control. Our stem cell-based screen may provide a means of identifying other genes that control heart rhythm.
Project description:Myocardial infarction causes sympathetic activation and parasympathetic dysfunction, which increase risk of sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmias. Mechanisms underlying parasympathetic dysfunction are unclear. The aim of this study was to delineate consequences of myocardial infarction on parasympathetic myocardial neurotransmitter levels and the function of parasympathetic cardiac ganglia neurons, and to assess electrophysiological effects of vagal nerve stimulation on ventricular arrhythmias in a chronic porcine infarct model. While norepinephrine levels decreased, cardiac acetylcholine levels remained preserved in border zones and viable myocardium of infarcted hearts. In vivo neuronal recordings demonstrated abnormalities in firing frequency of parasympathetic neurons of infarcted animals. Neurons that were activated by parasympathetic stimulation had low basal firing frequency, while neurons that were suppressed by left vagal nerve stimulation had abnormally high basal activity. Myocardial infarction increased sympathetic inputs to parasympathetic convergent neurons. However, the underlying parasympathetic cardiac neuronal network remained intact. Augmenting parasympathetic drive with vagal nerve stimulation reduced ventricular arrhythmia inducibility by decreasing ventricular excitability and heterogeneity of repolarization of infarct border zones, an area with known proarrhythmic potential. Preserved acetylcholine levels and intact parasympathetic neuronal pathways can explain the electrical stabilization of infarct border zones with vagal nerve stimulation, providing insight into its antiarrhythmic benefit.
Project description:Mutations in the X-linked MECP2 gene cause Rett syndrome (RTT), an autism spectrum disorder characterized by impaired social interactions, motor abnormalities, cognitive defects and a high risk of epilepsy. Here, we showed that conditional deletion of Mecp2 in cholinergic neurons caused part of RTT-like phenotypes, which could be rescued by re-expressing Mecp2 in the basal forebrain (BF) cholinergic neurons rather than in the caudate putamen of conditional knockout (Chat-Mecp2(-/y)) mice. We found that choline acetyltransferase expression was decreased in the BF and that ?7 nicotine acetylcholine receptor signaling was strongly impaired in the hippocampus of Chat-Mecp2(-/y) mice, which is sufficient to produce neuronal hyperexcitation and increase seizure susceptibility. Application of PNU282987 or nicotine in the hippocampus rescued these phenotypes in Chat-Mecp2(-/y) mice. Taken together, our findings suggest that MeCP2 is critical for normal function of cholinergic neurons and dysfunction of cholinergic neurons can contribute to numerous neuropsychiatric phenotypes.
Project description:Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disease that leads to intellectual deficit, motor disability, epilepsy and increased risk of sudden death. Although in up to 95% of cases this disease is caused by de novo loss-of-function mutations in the X-linked methyl-CpG binding protein 2 gene, it is a multisystem disease associated also with mitochondrial metabolic imbalance. In addition, the presence of long QT intervals (LQT) on the patients' electrocardiograms has been associated with the development of ventricular tachyarrhythmias and sudden death. In the attempt to shed light on the mechanism underlying heart failure in RTT, we investigated the contribution of the carnitine cycle to the onset of mitochondrial dysfunction in the cardiac tissues of two subgroups of RTT mice, namely Mecp2+/- NQTc and Mecp2+/- LQTc mice, that have a normal and an LQT interval, respectively. We found that carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1?A/B and carnitine acylcarnitine translocase were significantly upregulated at mRNA and protein level in the heart of Mecp2+/- mice. Moreover, the carnitine system was imbalanced in Mecp2+/- LQTc mice due to decreased carnitine acylcarnitine transferase expression. By causing accumulation of intramitochondrial acylcarnitines, this imbalance exacerbated incomplete fatty acid oxidation, which, in turn, could contribute to mitochondrial overload and sudden death.
Project description:Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss of function of the transcriptional regulator Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 (MeCP2). In addition to the characteristic loss of hand function and spoken language after the first year of life, people with RTT also have a variety of physiological and autonomic abnormalities including disrupted breathing rhythms characterized by bouts of hyperventilation and an increased frequency of apnea. These breathing abnormalities, that likely involve alterations in both the circuitry underlying respiratory pace making and those underlying breathing response to environmental stimuli, may underlie the sudden unexpected death seen in a significant fraction of people with RTT. In fact, mice lacking MeCP2 function exhibit abnormal breathing rate response to acute hypoxia and maintain a persistently elevated breathing rate rather than showing typical hypoxic ventilatory decline that can be observed among their wild-type littermates. Using genetic and pharmacological tools to better understand the course of this abnormal hypoxic breathing rate response and the neurons driving it, we learned that the abnormal hypoxic breathing response is acquired as the animals mature, and that MeCP2 function is required within excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory populations for a normal hypoxic breathing rate response. Furthermore, mice lacking MeCP2 exhibit decreased hypoxia-induced neuronal activity within the nucleus tractus solitarius of the dorsal medulla. Overall, these data provide insight into the neurons driving the circuit dysfunction that leads to breathing abnormalities upon loss of MeCP2. The discovery that combined dysfunction across multiple neuronal populations contributes to breathing dysfunction may provide insight into sudden unexpected death in RTT.
Project description:Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is an epigenetic regulator of gene expression that is essential for normal brain development. Mutations in MeCP2 lead to disrupted neuronal function and can cause Rett syndrome (RTT), a neurodevelopmental disorder. Previous studies reported cardiac dysfunction, including arrhythmias in both RTT patients and animal models of RTT. In addition, recent studies indicate that MeCP2 may be involved in cardiac development and dysfunction, but its role in the developing and adult heart remains unknown. In this study, we found that Mecp2-null ESCs could differentiate into cardiomyocytes, but the development and further differentiation of cardiovascular progenitors were significantly affected in MeCP2 deficiency. In addition, we revealed that loss of MeCP2 led to dysregulation of endogenous cardiac genes and myocardial structural alterations, although Mecp2-null mice did not exhibit obvious cardiac functional abnormalities. Furthermore, we detected methylation of the CpG islands in the Tbx5 locus, and showed that MeCP2 could target these sequences. Taken together, these results suggest that MeCP2 is an important regulator of the gene-expression program responsible for maintaining normal cardiac development and cardiomyocyte structure.
Project description:One quarter of deaths associated with Rett syndrome (RTT), an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder, are sudden and unexpected. RTT is associated with prolonged QTc interval (LQT), and LQT-associated cardiac arrhythmias are a potential cause of unexpected death. The standard of care for LQT in RTT is treatment with ?-adrenergic antagonists; however, recent work indicates that acute treatment of mice with RTT with a ?-antagonist, propranolol, does not prevent lethal arrhythmias. In contrast, acute treatment with the Na(+) channel blocker phenytoin prevented arrhythmias. Chronic dosing of propranolol may be required for efficacy; therefore, we tested the efficacy of chronic treatment with either propranolol or phenytoin on RTT mice. Phenytoin completely abolished arrhythmias, whereas propranolol showed no benefit. Surprisingly, phenytoin also normalized weight and activity, but worsened breathing patterns. To explore the role of Na(+) channel blockers on QT in people with RTT, we performed a retrospective analysis of QT status before and after Na(+) channel blocker antiepileptic therapies. Individuals with RTT and LQT significantly improved their QT interval status after being started on Na(+) channel blocker antiepileptic therapies. Thus, Na(+) channel blockers should be considered for the clinical management of LQT in individuals with RTT.
Project description:Neural remodeling in the autonomic nervous system contributes to sudden cardiac death. The fabric of cardiac excitability and propagation is controlled by autonomic innervation. Heart disease predisposes to malignant ventricular arrhythmias by causing neural remodeling at the level of the myocardium, the intrinsic cardiac ganglia, extracardiac intrathoracic sympathetic ganglia, extrathoracic ganglia, spinal cord, and the brainstem, as well as the higher centers and the cortex. Therapeutic strategies at each of these levels aim to restore the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. Understanding this complex neural network will provide important therapeutic insights into the treatment of sudden cardiac death.
Project description:Cardiac arrhythmias are a leading cause of cardiovascular death. It has long been accepted that life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias (ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and sudden cardiac death) are more likely to occur in the morning after waking. It is perhaps less well recognized that there is a circadian rhythm in cardiac pacemaking and other electrophysiological properties of the heart. In addition, there is a circadian rhythm in other arrhythmias, for example, bradyarrhythmias and supraventricular arrhythmias. Two mechanisms may underlie this finding: (1) a central circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus may directly affect the electrophysiology of the heart and arrhythmogenesis via various neurohumoral factors, particularly the autonomic nervous system; or (2) a local circadian clock in the heart itself (albeit under the control of the central clock) may drive a circadian rhythm in the expression of ion channels in the heart, which in turn varies arrhythmic substrate. This review summarizes the current understanding of the circadian rhythm in cardiac electrophysiology, arrhythmogenesis, and the underlying molecular mechanisms.