In α1-AR knockout (α1ABKO) mice that lacked cardiac myocyte α1-adrenergic receptor (α1-AR) binding, aortic constriction induced apoptosis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and death. However, it was unclear whether these effects were attributable to a lack of cardiac myocyte α1-ARs and whether the α1A, α1B, or both subtypes mediated protection. Therefore, we investigated α1A and α1B subtype–specific survival signaling in cultured cardiac myocytes to test for a direct protective effect of α1-ARs in cardiac myocytes.Methods and Results—
We cultured α1ABKO myocytes and reconstituted α1-AR signaling with adenoviruses expressing α1-GFP fusion proteins. Myocyte death was induced by norepinephrine, doxorubicin, or H2O2 and was measured by annexin V/propidium iodide staining. In α1ABKO myocytes, all 3 stimuli significantly increased apoptosis and necrosis. Reconstitution of the α1A subtype, but not the α1B, rescued α1ABKO myocytes from cell death induced by each stimulus. To address the mechanism, we examined α1-AR activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). In α1ABKO hearts, aortic constriction failed to activate ERK, and in α1ABKO myocytes, expression of a constitutively active MEK1 rescued α1ABKO myocytes from norepinephrine-induced death. In addition, only the α1A-AR activated ERK in α1ABKO myocytes, and expression of a dominant-negative MEK1 completely blocked α1A survival signaling in α1ABKO myocytes.Conclusions—
Our results demonstrate a direct protective effect of the α1A subtype in cardiac myocytes and define an α1A-ERK signaling pathway that is required for myocyte survival. Absence of the α1A-ERK pathway can explain the failure to activate ERK after aortic constriction in α1ABKO mice and can contribute to the development of apoptosis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and death.