• caridiomyocyte;
  • chronic hypoxia;
  • endothelial nitric oxide synthase;
  • erythropoietin;
  • protein kinase B


Adaptation of cardiomyocytes to chronic hypoxia in cyanotic patients remains unclear. Mitochondrial biogenesis is enhanced in myocardium from cyanotic patients, which is possibly an adaptive response. Erythropoietin (EPO) in blood and its receptor (EPOR) on cardiomyocytes are upregulated by chronic hypoxia, suggesting that EPO–EPOR interaction is increased, which is inferred to positively regulate mitochondrial biogenesis through protein kinase B (Akt)/endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) signalling pathway. H9c2 cardiomyocytes were exposed to hypoxia (1% O2) for 1 week and treated with different doses of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO). Mitochondrial number, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number and peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma coactivator alpha (PGC-1α) mRNA expression increased in a dose-dependent manner induced by rhEPO. Akt and eNOS were significantly phosphorylated by rhEPO. Both blocking Akt with Wortmannin and silencing eNOS expression with shRNA plasmid decreased the mtDNA copy number and PGC-1α mRNA expression induced by rhEPO. Blocking Akt was associated with the decreased phosphorylation of Akt and eNOS. RNA interference led to a reduction in the total and phosphorylated proteins of eNOS. Thus EPO enhances mitochondrial biogenesis in cardiomyocytes exposed to chronic hypoxia, at least partly through Akt/eNOS signalling, which might be an adaptive mechanism of cardiomyocytes associated with the increased EPO–EPOR interaction in patients with cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD).