Studies in our laboratory are aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved in the spatial and temporal control of eukaryotic gene expression and cellular differentiation. We have focused our interest on the pathways underlying cardiac growth and differentiation.
Cardiac cells represent a unique model for studying the mechanisms involved in cellular growth and differentiation since they respond to growth stimulation via two distinct pathways: during embryonic and fetal life, cardiac cells proliferate in response to growth stimulation whereas in the adult heart, the myocytes are terminally differentiated and lose their capacity to divide; they respond to growth stimulation, like increased work load on the heart, by increasing the size of a fixed number of cells, a process that leads to cardiac hypertrophy and eventually cardiac dysfunction. The molecular basis underlying these important events remains totally obscure.
In order to elucidate the factors and mechanisms involved in the control of gene expression during normal and hypertrophic cardiac growth, we have used several cardiac genes as models. Our studies have led to the molecular cloning of novel cardiac transcription factors with a role in heart development. Various techniques of cellular and molecular biology are now used to analyze the function of those factors in initiating and maintaining the cardiac genetic program and in cardiogenesis.