Catherine Jung Rose Hills
Investigating Changes in Gene Expression that Affect Heart Rate During Pregnancy
In normal pregnancies, cardiac output increases to accommodate increased metabolic demand. The fundamental mechanisms connecting changes in hormones to changes in gene expression in pacemaker cells are unknown. Understanding what increases heart rate in pregnancies could provide insight on preventing cardiovascular complications in pregnancies, and shed light on how the sinoatrial node (SAN) changes in response to physiological stress.This project will investigate heart rate changes in pregnancy by studying gene expression changes between pregnant, pseudopregnant, and non-pregnant mice. Pseudopregnant mice have the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, but lack a developing fetus. It is unknown whether heart rate changes during pregnancy are due strictly to hormonal changes or to the presence of a developing fetus. Laser capture microdissection will be used to isolate sinus nodes, and RNA of pacemaker cells will be sequenced from pregnant, pseudopregnant, and non-pregnant mice to reveal differences in gene expression. The heart rates will be observed with surgically implanted transmitters. Ultimately, I seek to connect changes in SAN gene expression to sinus physiology and hormonal changes in pregnancy.