New York, April 23: Contrary to popular beliefs, development of the heart does not stop with birth.
A study has found that the cell membrane machinery that is required to coordinate contraction, the electrical activity of the heart, develops in the postnatal period.
The days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart, said the study.
“The cells of the heart stop dividing after birth but they have to continue growing and working together for the heart to pump the blood,” explained Thomas Cooper, a professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in US.
“So basically, we have made the connection between the process of alternative splicing and the development of this system that coordinates heart contraction and function,” Cooper added.
Alternative splicing is the process in which genes code proteins, determining their role.
Using mouse models, the researchers could categorise the alternative splicing that takes place during these changes and what mechanisms they affect.
The findings also helped to identify a protein that regulates some of the alternative splicing and then goes on to change dramatically in its expression during the postnatal period.
The team of researchers identified the CELF1 protein as being responsible for regulating certain alternative splicing events, Cooper said.
So by turning on and off CELF1 expression at different points in development, researchers were able to see how the protein affects development during this stage.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications.