Pettinato, Anthony M. et al.
Human cardiac regeneration is limited by low cardiomyocyte replicative rates and progressive polyploidization by unclear mechanisms. To study this process, we engineer a human cardiomyocyte model to track replication and polyploidization using fluorescently tagged cyclin B1 and cardiac troponin T. Using time-lapse imaging, in vitro cardiomyocyte replication patterns recapitulate the progressive mononuclear polyploidization and replicative arrest observed in vivo. Single-cell transcriptomics and chromatin state analyses reveal that polyploidization is preceded by sarcomere assembly, enhanced oxidative metabolism, a DNA damage response, and p53 activation. CRISPR knockout screening reveals p53 as a driver of cell-cycle arrest and polyploidization. Inhibiting sarcomere function, or scavenging ROS, inhibits cell-cycle arrest and polyploidization. Finally, we show that cardiomyocyte engraftment in infarcted rat hearts is enhanced 4-fold by the increased proliferation of troponin-knockout cardiomyocytes. Thus, the sarcomere inhibits cell division through a DNA damage response that can be targeted to improve cardiomyocyte replacement strategies.