Metabolic remodeling is an integral part of pathogenic process of heart failure. From an unbiased transcriptome analysis focusing on known metabolic pathways, we unexpectedly found that branched chain amino acids (BCAA) catabolic pathway is one of the most significantly affected in mouse failure hearts. Subsequently, we revealed that BCAA catabolic defect and the resulted intra-cardiac accumulation of branched- chain keto acid (BCKA) are common metabolic features in human failing hearts. The detrimental impact of BCKA accumulation on cardiac function is associated with its direct effect on mitochondrial ROS induction and complex I specific inhibition. Most importantly, genetic inhibition of BCAA catabolic activity promoted pressure-overload induced heart failure while restoring BCAA catabolic activity and reducing BCKA accumulation significantly blunted the onset of heart failure. These exciting new findings established, for the first time, a direct and causal role of BCAA catabolic defect in heart failure, and provide proof of concept evidence to treat heart failure by targeting BCAA catabolic activity. These preliminary data lead to our novel hypothesis that stress-induced BCAA catabolic defect results in cardiac accumulation of BCKA which exerts detrimental effect on heart via impairment of mitochondria function and ROS induction (Figure 1). In this proposal, we will investigate the validity of our hypothesis via vigorous in vivo and in vitro examination, and establish the therapeutic potential of restoring BCAA catabolic activity for heart failure. Specifically, we will accomplish the following three specific aims:
Aim 1. To determine cell-autonomous contribution of BCAA catabolic defect in cardiomyocyte to the pathogenesis of heart failure: Using novel mouse model, we will genetically impair BCAA catabolic activity specifically in adult cardiomyocytes and examine the direct impact on cardiac function and pathological remodeling under basal as well as in response to pressure-overload or chronic ISO stimulation.
Aim 2. To unravel the cellular and molecular basis of BCKA induced cardiac dysfunction: We will determine both in vitro and in vivo the specific impact of BCKA accumulation on mitochondrial function, the connection between complex I inhibition and ROS induction, and impact of BCKA accumulation on myocyte viability and pathological remodeling.
Aim 3 To validate the therapeutic potential of targeting BCKD Kinase for HF therapy. we will test the function impact of restoring BCAA catabolic activity by genetically or pharmacologically inhibiting BCKD kinase on the pathological progression of HF. Together, this project will uncover a novel and important aspect of pathological remodeling in heart failure, fill a significant gap of knowledge in our current understanding of cardiac pathogenesis, and help to identify novel therapeutic target for this major disease.

Public Health Relevance

This project will explore a novel and previously uncharacterized features in heart failure concerning defect in selective group of amino acid metabolism. In addition to demonstrating the significant contribution of this defect to the progression of heart failure, the proposal will also investigate the molecular and cellular basis of their functional consequences, as well as demonstrating the therapeutic potential targeted to restoring amino acid metabolic activities for heart failure.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Myocardial Ischemia and Metabolism Study Section (MIM)
Program Officer
Tjurmina, Olga A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
Zip Code
Liu, Yunxia; Dong, Weibing; Shao, Jing et al. (2017) Branched-Chain Amino Acid Negatively Regulates KLF15 Expression via PI3K-AKT Pathway. Front Physiol 8:853