Cooperative Binding of ETS2 and NFAT Links Erk1/2 and Calcineurin Signaling in the Pathogenesis of Cardiac Hypertrophy

Yuxuan Luo, Nan Jiang, Herman I. May, Xiang Luo, Anwarul Ferdous, Gabriele G. Schiattarella, Guihao Chen, Qinfeng Li, Chao Li, Beverly A. Rothermel, Dingsheng Jiang, Sergio Lavandero, Thomas G. Gillette, Joseph A. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Cardiac hypertrophy is an independent risk factor for heart failure, a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. The calcineurin/NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) pathway and the MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase)/Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) pathway contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiac hypertrophy as an interdependent network of signaling cascades. How these pathways interact remains unclear and few direct targets responsible for the prohypertrophic role of NFAT have been described. Methods: By engineering cardiomyocyte-specific ETS2 (a member of the E26 transformation-specific sequence [ETS] domain family) knockout mice, we investigated the role of ETS2 in cardiac hypertrophy. Primary cardiomyocytes were used to evaluate ETS2 function in cell growth. Results: ETS2 is phosphorylated and activated by Erk1/2 on hypertrophic stimulation in both mouse (n=3) and human heart samples (n=8 to 19). Conditional deletion of ETS2 in mouse cardiomyocytes protects against pressure overload-induced cardiac hypertrophy (n=6 to 11). Silencing of ETS2 in the hearts of calcineurin transgenic mice significantly attenuates hypertrophic growth and contractile dysfunction (n=8). As a transcription factor, ETS2 is capable of binding to the promoters of hypertrophic marker genes, such as ANP, BNP, and Rcan1.4 (n=4). We report that ETS2 forms a complex with NFAT to stimulate transcriptional activity through increased NFAT binding to the promoters of at least 2 hypertrophy-stimulated genes: Rcan1.4 and microRNA-223 (=n4 to 6). Suppression of microRNA-223 in cardiomyocytes inhibits calcineurin-mediated cardiac hypertrophy (n=6), revealing microRNA-223 as a novel prohypertrophic target of the calcineurin/NFAT and Erk1/2-ETS2 pathways. Conclusions: Our findings point to a critical role for ETS2 in calcineurin/NFAT pathway-driven cardiac hypertrophy and unveil a previously unknown molecular connection between the Erk1/2 activation of ETS2 and expression of NFAT/ETS2 target genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-51
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 6 2021


  • ETS2
  • MAPK/Erk pathway
  • calcineurin-NFAT pathway
  • cardiac hypertrophy
  • cardiomegaly
  • microRNA-223

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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