Journal of the American Heart Association 2017 08 046(8) pii e005506
Fetal growth impacts cardiovascular health throughout postnatal life in humans. Various animal models of intrauterine growth restriction exhibit reduced heart size at birth, which negatively influences cardiac function in adulthood. The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) integrates nutrient and growth factor availability with cell growth, thereby regulating organ size. This study aimed at elucidating a possible involvement of mTORC1 in intrauterine growth restriction and prenatal heart growth.
METHODS AND RESULTS
We inhibited mTORC1 in fetal mice by rapamycin treatment of pregnant dams in late gestation. Prenatal rapamycin treatment reduces mTORC1 activity in various organs at birth, which is fully restored by postnatal day 3. Rapamycin-treated neonates exhibit a 16% reduction in body weight compared with vehicle-treated controls. Heart weight decreases by 35%, resulting in a significantly reduced heart weight/body weight ratio, smaller left ventricular dimensions, and reduced cardiac output in rapamycin- versus vehicle-treated mice at birth. Although proliferation rates in neonatal rapamycin-treated hearts are unaffected, cardiomyocyte size is reduced, and apoptosis increased compared with vehicle-treated neonates. Rapamycin-treated mice exhibit postnatal catch-up growth, but body weight and left ventricular mass remain reduced in adulthood. Prenatal mTORC1 inhibition causes a reduction in cardiomyocyte number in adult hearts compared with controls, which is partially compensated for by an increased cardiomyocyte volume, resulting in normal cardiac function without maladaptive left ventricular remodeling.
Prenatal rapamycin treatment of pregnant dams represents a new mouse model of intrauterine growth restriction and identifies an important role of mTORC1 in perinatal cardiac growth.