Myocardial infarction (MI), characterized by ischemia-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis, is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. NR4A2, a member of the NR4A orphan nucleus receptor family, is upregulated in mouse hearts with MI injury. Furthermore, NR4A2 knockdown aggravates heart injury as evidenced by enlarged hearts and increased apoptosis. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms of NR4A2-regulated apoptosis, we used H9c2 cardiomyocytes deprived of serum and neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCMs) exposed to hypoxia to mimic ischemic conditions in vivo. As NR4A2 knockdown aggravates cardiomyocyte apoptosis, while NR4A2 overexpression ameliorates it, NR4A2 upregulation was considered an adaptive response to ischemia-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis. By detecting changes in LC3 and using autophagy detection tools including Bafilomycin A1, 3MA and rapamycin, we found that NR4A2 knockdown promoted apoptosis through blocking autophagic flux. This apoptotic response was phenocopied by downregulation of NR4A2 after autophagic flux was impaired by Bafilomycin A1. Further study showed that NR4A2 binds to p53 directly and decreases its levels when it inhibits apoptosis; thus, p53/Bax is the downstream effector of NR4A2-mediated apoptosis, as previously reported. Changes in p53/Bax that were regulated by NR4A2 were also detected in injured hearts with NR4A2 knockdown. In addition, miR-212-3p is the upstream regulator of NR4A2, and it could downregulate the expression of NR4A2, as well as p53/Bax. The mechanism underlying the role of NR4A2 in apoptosis and autophagy was elucidated, and NR4A2 may be a therapeutic drug target for heart failure.
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Liu, Honghong; Liu, Pingping; Shi, Xingxing; Yin, Deling; and Zhao, Jing. 2018. NR4A2 Protects Cardiomyocytes Against Myocardial Infarction Injury by Promoting Autophagy. Cell Death Discovery. Vol.4(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41420-017-0011-8