The heart responds to diverse forms of stress by hypertrophic growth accompanied by fibrosis and eventual diminution of contractility, which results from down-regulation of alpha-myosin heavy chain (alphaMHC) and up-regulation of betaMHC, the primary contractile proteins of the heart. We found that a cardiac-specific microRNA (miR-208) encoded by an intron of the alphaMHC gene is required for cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, fibrosis, and expression of betaMHC in response to stress and hypothyroidism. Thus, the alphaMHC gene, in addition to encoding a major cardiac contractile protein, regulates cardiac growth and gene expression in response to stress and hormonal signaling through miR-208.
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