Heart failure (HF) is characterized by abnormal mitochondrial calcium (Ca2+) handling, energy failure and impaired mitophagy resulting in contractile dysfunction and myocyte death. We have previously shown that the 18-kDa mitochondrial translocator protein of the outer mitochondrial membrane (TSPO) can modulate mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake. Experiments were designed to test the role of the TSPO in a murine pressure-overload model of HF induced by transverse aortic constriction (TAC). Conditional, cardiac-specific TSPO knockout (KO) mice were generated using the Cre-loxP system. TSPO-KO and wild-type (WT) mice underwent TAC for 8 weeks. TAC-induced HF significantly increased TSPO expression in WT mice, associated with a marked reduction in systolic function, mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake, complex I activity and energetics. In contrast, TSPO-KO mice undergoing TAC had preserved ejection fraction, and exhibited fewer clinical signs of HF and fibrosis. Mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake and energetics were restored in TSPO KO mice, associated with decreased ROS, improved complex I activity and preserved mitophagy. Thus, HF increases TSPO expression, while preventing this increase limits the progression of HF, preserves ATP production and decreases oxidative stress, thereby preventing metabolic failure. These findings suggest that pharmacological interventions directed at TSPO may provide novel therapeutics to prevent or treat HF.
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