Targeting hydrogen sulfide breakdown for regulation of myocardial injury and repair
Emerson, Barry Sean
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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is an endogenous gasotransmitter that regulates vascular function and blood pressure, and also protects the heart from injury associated with myocardial infarction (MI). The mitochondrial enzyme thiosulfate sulfurtransferase (TST) has a putative role in the breakdown of H2S but its role in the cardiovascular system is unknown. I hypothesised that TST reduces cardiovascular H2S availability and that inhibiting TST activity may therefore ameliorate cardiovascular pathology. In the heart, TST was expressed by cardiomyocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells. Tst-/- mice all survived to adulthood and had normal cardiac structure and function. Cardiac and hepatic H2S breakdown rates were reduced and H2S levels were higher in the blood of Tst-/- mice. However, in heart tissue, protein levels for the H2S-activated Nrf2 downstream targets, thioredoxin (Trx1) and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) were comparable. In contrast, protein levels for the cardiac specific H2S-synthetic enzyme, cystathionine gamma lyase (CSE) was reduced, suggesting a homeostatic negative feedback mechanism to maintain H2S at non-toxic levels. Respiration, measured using an oxygen-sensing electrode was normal in isolated mitochondria from whole Tst-/- compared to control C57BL6 hearts. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) protein expression was lower in Tst-/- hearts, highlighting potential cross talk between H2S and nitric oxide (NO) signalling. TST was expressed in whole aorta homogenates and in isolated endothelial cells from aorta and small intramuscular vessels of the hindlimb from C57BL/6N control mice. Myography and western blotting revealed a greater influence of NO in aorta from Tst-/- mice that was associated with increased phosphorylation of the activating serine1177 residue of eNOS (PeNOSSer1177). NO plays a lesser role in resistance arteries, but in comparison to control vessels, small mesenteric vessels from Tst-/- mice was more reliant on small and intermediate calcium activated potassium channels for relaxation. Tst-/- mice were normotensive, despite this alteration in the regulation of vascular tone. However, metabolic cage experiments identified that Tst-/- mice presented with diuresis, polydipsia, and increased urinary electrolyte excretion of sodium, potassium and chloride, possibly to compensate for increased vascular tone in order to maintain stable blood pressure. To investigate the role of TST in regulating the response to pathological challenge, MI was induced by coronary artery ligation (CAL). In control mice, gene expression of CSE was downregulated by 2 days after CAL, but TST expression was 12-fold increased, suggesting regulation of H2S bioavailability during the acute MI-healing phase. Tst-/- male mice had a 40% greater incidence of cardiac rupture during infarct healing and surviving Tst-/- mice had greater left ventricular dilatation and impaired function compared to controls. Ex vivo, isolated perfused hearts from Tst-/- mice were more susceptible to ischaemia/ reperfusion injury, suggesting an additional role of TST in determining cardiomyocyte susceptibility to injury. In conclusion, these data indicate that cardiovascular H2S bioavailability is regulated through degradation by TST. The data presented here provide evidence for significant tissue specific crosstalk between H2S synthetic and degradative mechanisms and between H2S and other local regulatory mechanisms, including ion channels and NOS. We infer TST has a physiological role in the kidney where its loss leads to changes in renal electrolyte and water handling, although other compensatory mechanisms prevent a change in blood pressure. Under conditions of pathological challenge following MI, loss of TST is detrimental, illustrating its key role in removal of H2S. The data refute the original hypothesis that TST inhibition would be protective against cardiovascular pathology. Further studies in mice with tissue specific deletion of TST are now required to more fully reveal the cardiovascular role of TST.