Cardiac myocyte-specific overexpression of human GTP cyclohydrolase I protects against acute cardiac allograft rejection
Ionova IA., Vásquez-Vivar J., Cooley BC., Khanna AK., Whitsett J., Herrnreiter A., Migrino RQ., Ge Z-D., Regner KR., Channon KM., Alp NJ., Pieper GM.
<jats:p> GTP cyclohydrolase I (GTPCH) is the rate-limiting enzyme for tetrahydrobiopterin (BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub>) synthesis. Decreases in GTPCH activity and expression have been shown in late stages of acute cardiac rejection, suggesting a deficit in BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub>. We hypothesized that increasing intracellular levels of BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub> by cardiac myocyte-targeted overexpression of GTPCH would diminish acute cardiac allograft rejection. Transgenic mice overexpressing GTPCH in the heart were generated and crossed on C57BL6 background. Wild-type and transgenic mouse donor hearts were transplanted into BALB/c recipient mice. Left ventricular (LV) function, histological rejection, BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub> levels, and inflammatory cytokine gene expression (mRNA) were examined. Expression of human GTPCH was documented by PCR, Western analysis, and function by a significant ( P < 0.001) increase in cardiac BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub> levels. GTPCH transgene decreased histological rejection (46%; P < 0.003) and cardiac myocyte injury (eosin autofluorescence; 56%; P < 0.0001) independent of changes in inflammatory cytokine expression or nitric oxide content. GTPCH transgene decreased IL-2 (88%; P < 0.002), IL-1R2 (42%; P < 0.0001), and programmed cell death-1 (67%; P < 0.0001) expression, whereas it increased fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (156%; P < 0.0001) and stromal-derived factor-1 (2; 190%; P < 0.0001) expression. There was no difference in ejection fraction or fractional shortening; however, LV mass was significantly increased ( P < 0.05) only in wild-type grafts. The decreases in LV mass, cardiac injury, and histological rejection support a protective role of cardiac GTPCH overexpression and increased BH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub> synthesis in cardiac allografts. The mechanism of the decreased rejection appears related to decreased T cell proliferation and modulation of immune function by higher expression of genes involved in hematopoietic/stromal cell development and recruitment. </jats:p>