Background: Increased cardiac apoptosis is a hallmark of the elderly, which in turn increases the risk for developing cardiac disease. The overexpression of Omi/HtrA2 mRNA and protein contributes to apoptosis in the aged heart. Heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) is a transcription factor that binds to the promoter of Omi/HtrA2 in the aging myocardium. However, whether HSF1 participates in cardiomyocyte apoptosis via transcriptional regulation of Omi/HtrA2 remains unclear. The present study was designed to investigate whether HSF1 plays a role in Omi/HtrA2 transcriptional regulation and myocardial apoptosis.

Methods and Results: Assessment of the hearts of mice of different ages was performed, which indicated a decrease in cardiac function reserve and an increase in mitochondrial apoptosis. Omi/HtrA2 overexpression in the elderly was negatively correlated with left ventricular function after exercise overload and positively correlated with myocardial Caspase-9 apoptosis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) of aging hearts and plasmid transfection/RNA interference of H9C2 cells revealed that enhancement of HSF1 expression promotes Omi/HtrA2 expression by inducing the promoter activity of Omi/HtrA2 while also increasing mitochondrial apoptosis by upregulating Omi/HtrA2 expression.

Conclusions: HSF1 acts as a transcriptional factor that induces Omi/HtrA2 expression and Caspase-9 apoptosis in aged cardiomyocytes, while also decreasing cardiac function reserve.