Longevity genes, cardiac ageing, and the pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy: implications for understanding the effects of current and future treatments for heart failure.
The two primary molecular regulators of lifespan are sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Each plays a central role in two highly interconnected pathways that modulate the balance between cellular growth and survival. The activation of SIRT1 [along with peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator (PGC-1α) and adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK)] and the suppression of mTORC1 (along with its upstream regulator, Akt) act to prolong organismal longevity and retard cardiac ageing. Both activation of SIRT1/PGC-1α and inhibition of mTORC1 shifts the balance of cellular priorities so as to promote cardiomyocyte survival over growth, leading to cardioprotective effects in experimental models. These benefits may be related to direct actions to modulate oxidative stress, organellar function, proinflammatory pathways, and maladaptive hypertrophy. In addition, a primary shared benefit of both SIRT1/PGC-1α/AMPK activation and Akt/mTORC1 inhibition is the enhancement of autophagy, a lysosome-dependent degradative pathway, which clears the cytosol of dysfunctional organelles and misfolded proteins that drive the ageing process by increasing oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Autophagy underlies the ability of SIRT1/PGC-1α/AMPK activation and Akt/mTORC1 suppression to extend lifespan, mitigate cardiac ageing, alleviate cellular stress, and ameliorate the development and progression of cardiomyopathy; silencing of autophagy genes abolishes these benefits. Loss of SIRT1/PGC-1α/AMPK function or hyperactivation of Akt/mTORC1 is a consistent feature of experimental cardiomyopathy, and reversal of these abnormalities mitigates the development of heart failure. Interestingly, most treatments that have been shown to be clinically effective in the treatment of chronic heart failure with a reduced ejection fraction have been reported experimentally to exert favourable effects to activate SIRT1/PGC-1α/AMPK and/or suppress Akt/mTORC1, and thereby, to promote autophagic flux. Therefore, the impairment of autophagy resulting from derangements in longevity gene signalling is likely to represent a seminal event in the evolution and progression of cardiomyopathy.