1. Studies of cells transfected with specific expression vectors allow functions of specific gene products to be investigated. We first established optimum conditions for transfection of neonatal cardiac myocytes in primary culture. Increased proto-oncogene expression has been implicated in the development of cardiac hypertrophy; we therefore wished to examine the effects of overexpression of the c-myc and c-fos proto-oncogenes induced by cell transfection on cell growth.
2. Neonatal rat ventricular myocytes were transfected by electroporation, voltage and capacitance settings were optimized and these conditions were then used to transfect expression vectors encoding MYC and FOS proteins into this cell type. Effects on cell number, DNA synthesis and protein content were determined.
3. Increased expression of c-myc and c-fos in cells transfected with proto-oncogene expression vectors was confirmed by Northern and Western blotting. Increases in cardiac myocyte cell number, DNA synthesis and total cellular protein were observed in cells transfected with either c-myc or c-fos expression vectors compared with cells transfected with non-coding vectors.
4. Overexpression of MYC and FOS proteins results in hyperplastic rather than hypertrophic growth of the neonatal rat heart, providing evidence for a role of these proteins in the control of myocardial growth.