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Urocortin (UCN), a member of the Corticotropin-Releasing Factor (CRF) family of peptides is a well described cardioprotective agent. UCN is able to bind to two types of G-protein coupled receptors: CRF receptor type 1 (CRFR1) and CRF receptor type 2 (CRFR2), whereas, two homologues of UCN, stresscopin (SCP) or also known as urocortin III (UCNIII) and stresscopin related peptide (SRP), or urocortin II (UCNII), bind exclusively and with high affinity to CRFR2, we hypothesised that they will exhibit more pronounced cardioprotective effects than UCN. We show for the first time that SCP is expressed in rat cardiomyocytes and that the levels of SRP and SCP are increased by hypoxic stress. All three peptides have potent cardioprotective effects in cells exposed to hypoxia/reoxygenation. When used at 10(-8) M they increased the amount of live cells by 25% when added prior to hypoxia, and by 20% when UCN and SCP were added at the onset of reoxygenation. In addition, the peptides are equally are more potent antiapoptotic factors than UCN. The antiapoptotic effects of SCP were more pronounced than SRP and UCN at a concentration of 10(-10) M. Furthermore, SCP and SRP protect cardiomyocytes better than UCN at concentrations up to and including 10(-10) M and reduced the amount of TUNEL positive cells almost by half at concentrations of 10(-12) to 10(-10) M. More importantly, we demonstrate that SCP and SRP are able to protect cardiomyocytes even if they are administered after the hypoxic insult and prior to reoxygenation. In this case SCP was more potent than UCN and SRP at 10(-12) M and both SCP and SRP exhibited higher protection at 10(-8) M compared to UCN. Cardioprotection of cardiomyocytes by 10(-8) M of peptides was abolished when treated with 50 microM LY294002 or 100 microM PD98059, but not by 10 microM SB203580 prior to the hypoxic insult. Transfection of dominant negative Akt and MEK1 also blocked protection by the peptides, whereas dominant negative MEKK6 had no effects, demonstrating that SCP and SRP, like UCN, require activation of p42/44 Mitogen activated protein kinase and Akt/Protein Kinase B in order to produce their cardioprotective effects. In addition, we showed that SCP and UCN are potent activators of the p42/44 MAPK pathway, with SRP able to induce phosphorylation of p42/44 MAPK as well, albeit not as pronounced.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Cell Cardiol

Publication Date





1295 - 1305


Animals, Apoptosis, Blotting, Western, Cells, Cultured, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, DNA, Complementary, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Enzyme Activation, Enzyme Inhibitors, Genes, Dominant, Hypoxia, Imidazoles, In Situ Nick-End Labeling, Kinetics, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, Myocytes, Cardiac, Peptides, Protein Binding, Protein Kinases, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt, Pyridines, RNA, RNA, Messenger, Rats, Reperfusion Injury, Signal Transduction, Transfection, Trypan Blue, Urocortins