p27 protects metabolically-stressed cardiomyocytes from apoptosis by promoting autophagy [Cell Biology]

May 2nd, 2014 by Sun, X., Momen, A., Wu, J., Noyan, H., Li, R., von Harsdorf, R., Husain, M.

p27KIP1 (p27), a key regulator of cell division, has been implicated in autophagy of cancer cells. However, its role in autophagy, the evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that enables cells to remove unwanted proteins and damaged organelles, had not been examined in the heart. Here we report that ectopic delivery of a p27 fusion protein (TAT-p27) was sufficient to induce autophagy in neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes in vitro, under basal conditions and after glucose deprivation. Conversely, lentivirus-delivered shRNA against p27 successfully reduced p27 levels and suppressed basal and glucose-deprived levels of autophagy in cardiomyocytes in vitro. Glucose deprivation mimics myocardial ischemia and induces apoptosis in cardiomyocytes. During glucose deprivation, TAT-p27 inhibited apoptosis, while down-regulation of p27 decreased survival of cardiomyocytes. However, inhibition of autophagy by pharmacological (3-methyladenine, chloroquine or bafilomycin A1) or genetic approaches (siRNA-mediated knockdown of Atg5) sensitized cardiomyocyts to glucose deprivation-induced apoptosis, even in the presence of TAT-p27. TAT-p27 was also able to provoke greater levels of autophagy in resting and fasting cardiomyocytes in vivo. Further, TAT-p27 enhanced autophagy and repressed cardiomyocytes apoptosis, improved cardiac function and reduced infarct size following myocardial infarction (MI). Again, these effects were lost when cardiac autophagy in vivo was blocked by chloroquine. Taken together, these data show that p27 positively regulates cardiac autophagy in vitro and in vivo, at rest and after metabolic stress, and that TAT-p27 inhibits apoptosis by promoting autophagy in glucose deprived cardiomyocytes in vitro and in post-MI hearts in vivo.