Impaired mechanosensing leads to heart failure and a decreased ratio of cytoplasmic to nuclear CSRP3/muscle LIM protein (MLP ratio) is associated with a loss of mechanosensitivity. In the present study, we tested whether passive or active stress/strain was important in modulating the MLP ratio and determined whether this correlated with heart function during the transition to failure. We exposed cultured neonatal rat myocytes to a 10% cyclic mechanical stretch at 1 Hz, or electrically paced myocytes at 6.8 V (1 Hz) for 48 h. The MLP ratio decreased by 50% (P < 0.05, n = 4) only in response to electrical pacing, suggesting impaired mechanosensitivity. Inhibition of contractility with 10 μm blebbistatin resulted in an ˜3-fold increase in the MLP ratio (n = 8, P < 0.05), indicating that myocyte contractility regulates nuclear MLP. Inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC) signalling with trichostatin A increased nuclear MLP following passive stretch, suggesting that HDACs block MLP nuclear accumulation. Inhibition of heme oxygenase1 (HO-1) activity with protoporphyrin IX zinc(II) blocked MLP nuclear accumulation. To examine how mechanosensitivity changes during the transition to heart failure, we studied a guinea-pig model of angiotensin II infusion (400 ng kg–1 min–1) over 12 weeks. Using subcellular fractionation, we showed that the MLP ratio increased by 88% (n = 4, P < 0.01) during compensated hypertrophy but decreased significantly during heart failure (P < 0.001, n = 4). The MLP ratio correlated significantly with the E/A ratio (r = 0.71, P < 0.01, n = 12), a clinical measure of diastolic function. These data indicate for the first time that myocyte mechanosensitivity as indicated by the MLP ratio is regulated primarily by myocyte contractility via HO-1 and HDAC signalling.