Right ventricular remodeling in response to volume overload in fetal sheep

Tara Karamlou, George D. Giraud, Donogh McKeogh, Sonnet S. Jonker, Irving Shen, Ross M. Ungerleider, Kent L. Thornburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The fetal myocardium is known to be sensitive to hemodynamic load, responding to systolic overload with cellular hypertrophy, proliferation, and accelerated maturation. However, the fetal cardiac growth response to primary volume overload is unknown. We hypothesized that increased venous return would stimulate fetal cardiomyocyte proliferation and terminal differentiation, particularly in the right ventricle (RV). Vascular catheters and pulmonary artery flow probes were implanted in 16 late-gestation fetal sheep: a right carotid artery-jugular vein (AV) fistula was surgically created in nine fetuses, and sham operations were performed on seven fetuses. Instrumented fetuses were studied for 1 wk before hearts were dissected for component analysis or cardiomyocyte dispersion for cellular measurements. Within 1 day of AV fistula creation, RV output was 20% higher in experimental than sham fetuses (P < 0.0001). Circulating atrial natriuretic peptide levels were elevated fivefold in fetuses with an AV fistula (P < 0.002). On the terminal day, RV-to-body weight ratios were 35% higher in the AV fistula group (P < 0.05). Both left ventricular and RV cardiomyocytes grew longer in fetuses with an AV fistula (P < 0.02). Cell cycle activity was depressed by >50% [significant in left ventricle (P < 0.02), but not RV (P < 0.054)]. Rates of terminal differentiation were unchanged. Based on these studies, we speculate that atrial natriuretic peptide suppressed fetal cardiomyocyte cell cycle activity. Unlike systolic overload, fetal diastolic load appears to drive myocyte enlargement, but not cardiomyocyte proliferation or maturation. These changes could predispose to RV dysfunction later in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H985-H991
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Atrial natriuretic peptide
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Fetus
  • Right ventricle
  • Volume overload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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