Get access

Changes in Gene Expression of Phenylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase in the Transplanted Human Heart


Address for correspondence: Dr. Olga Krizanova, Institute of Molecular Physiology and Genetics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Vlarska 5, 833 34 Bratislava, Slovak Republic. Voice: 421/254/772-211; fax: 421/254/773-666. e-mail:


Abstract: Heart transplantation (HTx) is an accepted treatment for precisely defined patients with chronic congestive heart failure; however, as a result of the procedure, the graft is completely denervated. Our study focused on the catecholamine biosynthetic pathway, that is, the production of epinephrine, which is known to have positive chronotropic and inotropic effects on the heart. mRNA levels of the phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT), the enzyme catalyzing epinephrine synthesis in myocardial tissue, were determined in 18 patients (0 to 10 yr after HTx). Samples of myocardium were obtained from the right ventricle at the time of a routine endomyocardial biopsy performed for the diagnosis of graft rejection. Results were correlated with the following clinical parameters: heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, graft systolic function, and the presence of the rejection. We observed that heart PNMT mRNA levels were significantly higher during the first 3 yr as compared to longer periods after HTx. Also, a decrease in the average heart rate and an increase in the heart rate variability were documented. Levels of the PNMT mRNA do not correlate with blood pressure, left ventricular systolic function at rest, and rejection. Thus, a gradual decrease of the heart rate and an increase in the heart rate variability after HTx is considered to be a sign of cardiac graft reinervation. We speculate that the increased PNMT transcription in human myocardium in early intervals after HTx reflects “autonomous sympathicotrophy.” A decrease in the PNMT gene expression with the number of years after HTx could be a consequence of the reinnervation process.