Cardiomyocytes compensate to acute cardiac stress by increasing in size and contractile function. However, prolonged stress leads to a decompensated response characterized by cardiomyocyte death, tissue fibrosis and loss of cardiac function. Identifying approaches to inhibit this transition to a decompensated response may reveal important targets for treating heart failure. The Ral guanine nucleotide disassociation (RalGDS) proteins are Ras-interacting proteins that are upregulated by hypertrophic stimuli. The Ral guanine nucleotide dissociation stimulator-like 2 (Rgl2) is a member of the RalGDS family that modulates expression of hypertrophic genes in cardiomyocytes. However, the pathophysiologic consequence of increased Rgl2 expression in cardiomyoctyes remains unclear. To evaluate the effect of increasing Rgl2 activity in the heart, transgenic mice with cardiac-targeted over-expression of Rgl2 were generated. Although Ral activation was increased, there were no apparent morphologic or histological differences between the hearts of Rgl2 transgenic and nontransgenic mice indicating that increased Rgl2 expression had no effect on basal cardiac phenotype. To determine if Rgl2 modulates the cardiac response to stress, mice were infused with the ß-adrenergic receptor agonist, isoproterenol. Isoproterenol infusion increased heart mass in both Rgl2 transgenic and nontransgenic mice. However, unlike nontransgenic mice, Rgl2 transgenic mice showed no morphologic evidence of cardiomyocyte damage or increased cardiac fibrosis following isoproterenol infusion. Increased Rgl2 expression in cultured cardiomyocytes stimulated Ral activation and inhibited staurosporine-induced apoptosis via increased activation of PI3-kinase. Activation of the PI3-kinase signaling pathway was confirmed in hearts isolated from Rgl2 transgenic mice. Increased expression and function of Rgl2 in cardiomyocytes promotes activation of the PI3-kinase signaling cascade and protects from carciomyocyte death and pathologic cardiac fibrosis. Taken further, these results suggest that Rgl2 upregulation in hypertrophic hearts may be a protetive mechanism, and that Rgl2 may be a novel therapeutic target in treating heart disease.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in PLoS ONE, v. 8, no. 9, e73599.

© 2013 Scotland et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)