Early life stress regulates cardiac development through an IL4-glucocorticoid signaling balance


  • D.C. Apaydin
  • P.A.M. Jaramillo
  • L. Corradi
  • F. Cosco
  • F.G. Rathjen
  • T. Kammertoens
  • A. Filosa
  • S. Sawamiphak


  • Cell Reports


  • Cell Rep 33 (7): 108404


  • Stressful experiences early in life can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, it remains largely unknown how stress influences susceptibility to the disease onset. Here, we show that exposure to brain-processed stress disrupts myocardial growth by reducing cardiomyocyte mitotic activity. Activation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), the primary stress response pathway, reduces cardiomyocyte numbers, disrupts trabecular formation, and leads to contractile dysfunction of the developing myocardium. However, a physiological level of GR signaling is required to prevent cardiomyocyte hyperproliferation. Mechanistically, we identify an antagonistic interaction between the GR and the cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) as a key player in cardiac development. IL-4 signals transcription of key regulators of cell-cycle progression in cardiomyocytes via signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3). GR, on the contrary, inhibits this signaling system. Thus, our findings uncover an interplay between stress and immune signaling pathways critical to orchestrating physiological growth of the heart.