Divergent and overlapping roles for selected phytochemicals in the regulation of pathological cardiac hypertrophy

Levi Evans, Yiqui Shen, Abigail Bender, Leah E. Burnett, Musheng Li, Justine S. Habibian, Tong Zhou, Bradley S. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and other foodstuffs, have been deemed as heart healthy. The chemicals within these plant-based foods, i.e., phytochemicals, are credited with protecting the heart. However, the mechanistic actions of phytochemicals, which prevent clinical endpoints, such as pathological cardiac hypertrophy, are still being elucidated. We sought to characterize the overlapping and divergent mechanisms by which 18 selected phytochemicals prevent phenylephrine-and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-mediated cardiomyocyte enlargement. Of the tested 18 compounds, six attenuated PE-and PMA-mediated enlargement of neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. Cell viability assays showed that apigenin, baicalein, berberine hydrochloride, emodin, luteolin and quercetin dihydrate did not reduce cell size through cytotoxicity. Four of the six phytochemicals, apigenin, baicalein, berberine hydrochloride and emodin, robustly inhibited stress-induced hypertrophy and were analyzed further against intracellular signaling and genome-wide changes in mRNA expression. The four phytochemicals differentially regulated mitogen-activated protein kinases and protein kinase D. RNA-sequencing further showed divergence in gene regulation, while pathway analysis demonstrated overlap in the regulation of inflammatory pathways. Combined, this study provided a comprehensive analysis of cardioprotective phytochemicals. These data highlight two defining observations: (1) that these compounds predominantly target divergent gene pathways within cardiac myocytes and (2) that regulation of overlapping signaling and gene pathways may be of particular importance for the antihypertrophic actions of these phytochemicals. Despite these new findings, future works investigating rodent models of heart failure are still needed to understand the roles for these compounds in the heart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1210
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Apigenin
  • Baicalein
  • Berberine hydrochloride
  • Emodin
  • Nutrient-gene expression
  • Pathological cardiac hypertrophy
  • Phytochemical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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