Stenzig J et al.
DNA methylation affects transcriptional regulation and constitutes a drug target in cancer biology. In cardiac hypertrophy, DNA methylation may control the fetal gene program. We therefore investigated DNA methylation signatures and their dynamics in an in vitro model of cardiac hypertrophy based on engineered heart tissue (EHT). We exposed EHTs from neonatal rat cardiomyocytes to a 12-fold increased afterload (AE) or to phenylephrine (PE 20 µM) and compared DNA methylation signatures to control EHT by pull-down assay and DNA methylation microarray. A 7-day intervention sufficed to induce contractile dysfunction and significantly decrease promoter methylation of hypertrophy-associated upregulated genes such as Nppa (encoding ANP) and Acta1 (α-skeletal actin) in both intervention groups. To evaluate whether pathological consequences of AE are affected by inhibiting de novo DNA methylation we applied AE in the absence and presence of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitors: 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (aza, 100 µM, nucleosidic inhibitor), RG108 (60 µM, non-nucleosidic) or methylene disalicylic acid (MDSA, 25 µM, non-nucleosidic). Aza had no effect on EHT function, but RG108 and MDSA partially prevented the detrimental consequences of AE on force, contraction and relaxation velocity. RG108 reduced AE-induced Atp2a2 (SERCA2a) promoter methylation. The results provide evidence for dynamic DNA methylation in cardiac hypertrophy and warrant further investigation of the potential of DNA methylation in the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy.