TGFβ receptor activation enhances cardiac apoptosis via SMAD activation and concomitant NO release

Jacqueline Heger, Physiologisches Institut, Germany
Björn Warga, Physiologisches Institut, Germany
Bettina Meyering, Physiologisches Institut, Germany
Yaser Abdallah, Aga Khan University
Klaus Dieter Schlüter, Physiologisches Institut, Germany
Hans Michael l Piper, Physiologisches Institut, Germany
Gerhild Euler, Physiologisches Institut, Gießen, Germany

This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) expression is induced in the myocardium during transition from compensated hypertrophy to heart failure. In cardiomyocytes, stimulation with TGFβ results in restricted contractile function and enhanced apoptosis. Nitric oxide (NO) also induces apoptosis and influences cardiac function. Therefore, we wanted to know whether NO is causally involved in TGFβ-induced apoptosis. In isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes of adult rat incubation with TGFβ(1) increased NO release which was inhibited by NOS inhibitor ETU but not with iNOS inhibitor (1400 W) or nNOS inhibitor (TFA). In addition, TGFβ-induced apoptosis was blocked with ETU and ODQ, but not with 1400 W or TFA. The consequent assumption that endothelial NOS is involved in TGFβ-induced NO formation and apoptosis was supported by increased phosphorylation of eNOS at serine 1177 and by the fact that TGFβ did not increase NO release in eNOS KO mice. Furthermore, TGFβ-induced apoptosis, NO formation, SMAD binding activity and SMAD2 phosphorylation were blocked by a TGFβ receptor antagonist, but only apoptosis and NO formation could be blocked with ETU. Expression of SMAD7 was increased after TGFβ stimulation and blocked with TGFβ receptor antagonist but not after blocking NO synthase with ETU.


In cardiomyocytes TGFβ-induced apoptosis is mediated via TGFβ receptor activation that concomitantly activates SMAD transcription factors and the eNOS/NO/sGC pathway. Both of these pathways are needed for apoptosis induction by TGFβ. This reveals a new pathway of cardiac NO release and identifies NO as a possible contributor to heart failure progression mediated by TGFβ.