Using neonatal rat ventricular myocytes, we previously reported that the expression of a dominant negative form of the c-Fos proto-oncogene (AFos) inhibited activator protein 1 activity and blocked the induction of the pathological gene profile stimulated by phenylephrine (PE) while leaving growth unaffected. We now extend these observations to the adult rat ventricular myocyte (ARVM) to understand the relationship between gene expression, growth, and function. Ventricular myocytes were isolated from adult rats and infected with adenovirus expressing β-galactosidase (control) or AFos. The cells were subsequently treated with PE, and protein synthesis, gene program, calcium transients, and contractility were evaluated. As seen with the neonatal rat ventricular myocytes, in control cells PE stimulated an increase in protein synthesis, induced the pathological gene profile, and exhibited both depressed contractility and calcium transients. Although ARVMs expressing AFos still had PE-induced growth, pathological gene expression as well as contractility and calcium handling abnormalities were inhibited. To determine a possible mechanism of the preserved myocyte function in AFos-expressing cells, we examined phospholamban (PLB) and sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum calcium-ATPase proteins. Although there was no change in total PLB or sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum calcium-ATPase expression in response to PE treatment, PE decreased the phosphorylation of PLB at serine-16, an observation that was prevented in AFos-expressing cells. In conclusion, although PE-induced growth was unaffected in AFos-expressing ARVMs, the expression of the pathological gene profile was inhibited and both contractile function and calcium cycling were preserved. The inhibition of functional deterioration was, in part, due to the preservation of PLB phosphorylation
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