Increased inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression is a component of the immune response and has been demonstrated in cardiomyocytes in septic shock, myocarditis, transplant rejection, ischemia, and dilated cardiomyopathy. To explore whether the consequences of such expression are adaptive or pathogenic, we have generated a transgenic mouse model conditionally targeting the expression of a human iNOS cDNA to myocardium. Chronic cardiac-specific upregulation of iNOS in transgenic mice led to increased production of peroxynitrite. This was associated with a mild inflammatory cell infiltrate, cardiac fibrosis, hypertrophy, and dilatation. While iNOS-overexpressing mice infrequently developed overt heart failure, they displayed a high incidence of sudden cardiac death due to bradyarrhythmia. This dramatic cardiac phenotype was rescued by specific attenuation of transgene activity. These data implicate cardiomyocyte iNOS overexpression as sufficient to cause cardiomyopathy, bradyarrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.
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