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Postprandial cardiac hypertrophy in pythons

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


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).

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