BACKGROUND: Aging populations show higher incidences of myocardial infarction (MI) and heart failure (HF). Cardiac remodeling post-MI leads to progressive impaired cardiac function caused by a disarray of several processes including derailed autophagy. Microribonucleic acids (miRNAs) are known to be key players in cardiovascular disease but their involvement in cardiac autophagy and aging is not well understood.
OBJECTIVES: This study sought to identify new miRNA candidates that regulate cardiac autophagy and aging.
METHODS: We exploited a high-throughput, fluorescence-activated cell sorting-based green fluorescent protein-LC3 detection method to measure the autophagic flux in cardiomyocytes after transfection of a precursor miRNA library consisting of 380 miRNAs. This was followed by a series of molecular and in vivo studies.
RESULTS: Together with additional expression screenings, we identified miR-22 as an abundant and strong inhibitor of the cardiac autophagy process. Cardiac miR-22 expression levels increased during aging of mice as well as in aging neonatal cardiomyocytes in vitro by a P53-dependent mechanism. Inhibition of miR-22 in aging cardiomyocytes in vitro activated autophagy and inhibited cellular hypertrophy. Pharmacological inhibition of miR-22 post-MI in older mice activated cardiac autophagy, prevented post-infarction remodeling, and improved cardiac function compared with control subjects. Interestingly, similar effects were less pronounced in younger mice with significantly lower cardiac miR-22 expression levels. In addition, circulating levels of miR-22 in 154 patients with systolic HF were highly associated with early mortality.
CONCLUSIONS: We concluded that miR-22 is an important regulator of cardiac autophagy and a potential therapeutic target, especially in the older myocardium. Finally, circulating miR-22 provides prognostic information for HF patients, highlighting miR-22 as a promising therapeutic and biomarker candidate for cardiovascular disorders.