Regulation of the cardiomyocyte population in the developing heart

Kent Thornburg, Sonnet Jonker, Perrie O'Tierney, Natasha Chattergoon, Samantha Louey, Job Faber, George Giraud

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


During fetal life the myocardium expands through replication of cardiomyocytes. In sheep, cardiomyocytes begin the process of becoming terminally differentiated at about 100 gestation days out of 145 days term. In this final step of development, cardiomyocytes become binucleated and stop dividing. The number of cells at birth is important in determining the number of cardiomyocytes for life. Therefore, the regulation of cardiomyocyte growth in the womb is critical to long term disease outcome. Growth factors that stimulate proliferation of fetal cardiomyocytes include angiotensin II, cortisol and insulin-like growth factor-1. Increased ventricular wall stress leads to short term increases in proliferation but longer-term loss of cardiomyocyte generative capacity. Two normally circulating hormones have been identified that suppress proliferation: atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and tri-iodo-l-thyronine (T3). Atrial natriuretic peptide signals through the NPRA receptor that serves as a guanylate cyclase and signals through cGMP. ANP powerfully suppresses mitotic activity in cardiomyocytes in the presence of angiotensin II in culture. Addition of a cGMP analog has the same effect as ANP. ANP suppresses both the extracellular receptor kinases and the phosphoinositol-3 kinase pathways. T3 also suppresses increased mitotic activity of stimulated cardiomyocytes but does so by increasing the cell cycle suppressant, p21, and decreasing the cell cycle activator, cyclin D1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Atrial natriuretic peptide
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Fetus
  • Programming
  • Terminal differentiation
  • Tri-iodo-l-thyronine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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