Cardiomyocyte-specific IκB kinase (IKK)/NF-κB activation induces reversible inflammatory cardiomyopathy and heart failure

Harald J. Maier, Tobias G. Schips, Astrid Wietelmann, Marcus Krüger, Cornelia Brunner, Martina Sauter, Karin Klingel, Thomas Böttger, Thomas Braun, Thomas Wirth

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150 Scopus citations


Inflammation is a major factor in heart disease. IκB kinase (IKK) and its downstream target NF-κB are regulators of inflammation and are activated in cardiac disorders, but their precise contributions and targets are unclear. We analyzed IKK/NF-κB function in the heart by a gain-of-function approach, generating an inducible transgenic mouse model with cardiomyocyte-specific expression of constitutively active IKK2. In adult animals, IKK2 activation led to inflammatory dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Transgenic hearts showed infiltrationwith CD11b+ cells, fibrosis, fetal reprogramming, and atrophy of myocytes with strong constitutively active IKK2 expression. Upon transgene inactivation, the disease was reversible even at an advanced stage. IKK-induced cardiomyopathywas dependent on NF-κB activation, as in vivo expression of IκBα superrepressor, an inhibitor of NF-κB, prevented the development of disease. Gene expression and proteomic analyses revealed enhanced expression of inflammatory cytokines, and an IFN type I signature with activation of the IFN-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) pathway. In that respect, IKK-induced cardiomyopathy resembled Coxsackievirus-induced myocarditis, during which the NF-κB and ISG15 pathways were also activated. Vice versa, in cardiomyocytes lacking the regulatory subunit of IKK (IKKγ/NEMO), the induction of ISG15 was attenuated. We conclude that IKK/NF-κB activation in cardiomyocytes is sufficient to cause cardiomyopathy and heart failure by inducing an excessive inflammatory response and myocyte atrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11794-11799
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - 17 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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  • Transgenic mice


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