BACKGROUNDWe have previously shown that several metabolic genes are downregulated in the failing human heart. We now tested the hypothesis that mechanical unloading might reverse this process.METHODSClinical data and myocardial tissue were collected from 14 failing hearts paired for the time of implantation and explantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and compared to 10 non-failing hearts. Transcript levels for key regulators of energy metabolism and for atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) were measured by real-time quantitative RT-PCR.RESULTSThe expression of the glucose transporter 1 and 4 (GLUT1, GLUT4), muscle carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1 (mCPT-1), and uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) were downregulated by up to 80% in the failing heart. Although LVAD treatment improved clinical markers of heart failure (decrease of left ventricular diastolic dimension and normalization of serum sodium), only UCP3 expression reversed to non-failing transcript levels following mechanical unloading.CONCLUSIONSLVAD treatment only partially reverses depressed metabolic gene expression in the failing human heart. Reversal of depressed UCP3 expression may be an important mechanism for reducing the formation of oxygen-derived free radicals. Further studies are necessary to define the effects of mechanical unloading on post-transcriptional mechanisms.