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Physiology

Postprandial cardiac hypertrophy in pythons

This snake can synthesize fresh heart muscle to cope with extra metabolic demand.

Abstract

Oxygen consumption by carnivorous reptiles increases enormously after they have eaten a large meal in order to meet metabolic demands, and this places an extra load on the cardiovascular system. Here we show that there is an extraordinarily rapid 40% increase in ventricular muscle mass in Burmese pythons (Python molurus) a mere 48 hours after feeding, which results from increased gene expression of muscle-contractile proteins. As this fully reversible hypertrophy occurs naturally, it could provide a useful model for investigating the mechanisms that lead to cardiac growth in other animals.

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Figure 1: Northern blot showing increase in myosin mRNA in the cardiac ventricles of postprandial Burmese pythons.

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Correspondence to James W. Hicks.

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Andersen, J., Rourke, B., Caiozzo, V. et al. Postprandial cardiac hypertrophy in pythons. Nature 434, 37–38 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/434037a

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