The heart responds to stress signals by hypertrophic growth, which is accompanied by activation of the MEF2 transcription factor and reprogramming of cardiac gene expression. We show here that class II histone deacetylases (HDACs), which repress MEF2 activity, are substrates for a stress-responsive kinase specific for conserved serines that regulate MEF2-HDAC interactions. Signal-resistant HDAC mutants lacking these phosphorylation sites are refractory to hypertrophic signaling and inhibit cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Conversely, mutant mice lacking the class II HDAC, HDAC9, are sensitized to hypertrophic signals and exhibit stress-dependent cardiomegaly. Thus, class II HDACs act as signal-responsive suppressors of the transcriptional program governing cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure.
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