Indexed on: 23 May '15Published on: 23 May '15Published in: Circulation research
Baseline physiological function of the mammalian heart is under the constant threat of environmental or intrinsic pathological insults. Cardiomyocyte proteins are thus subject to unremitting pressure to function optimally, and this depends on them assuming and maintaining proper conformation. This review explores the multiple defenses a cell may use for its proteins to assume and maintain correct protein folding and conformation. There are multiple quality control mechanisms to ensure that nascent polypeptides are properly folded and mature proteins maintain their functional conformation. When proteins do misfold, either in the face of normal or pathological stimuli or because of intrinsic mutations or post-translational modifications, they must either be refolded correctly or recycled. In the absence of these corrective processes, they may become toxic to the cell. Herein, we explore some of the underlying mechanisms that lead to proteotoxicity. The continued presence and chronic accumulation of misfolded or unfolded proteins can be disastrous in cardiomyocytes because these misfolded proteins can lead to aggregation or the formation of soluble peptides that are proteotoxic. This in turn leads to compromised protein quality control and precipitating a downward spiral of the cell's ability to maintain protein homeostasis. Some underlying mechanisms are discussed and the therapeutic potential of interfering with proteotoxicity in the heart is explored.