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Alexander V. Amram, Stephen Cutie, and Guo N. Huang

Research conducted across phylogeny on cardiac regenerative responses following heart injury implicates endocrine signaling as a pivotal regulator of both cardiomyocyte proliferation and heart regeneration. Three prominently studied endocrine factors are thyroid hormone, vitamin D, and glucocorticoids, which canonically regulate gene expression through their respective nuclear receptors thyroid hormone receptor, vitamin D receptor, and glucocorticoid receptor. The main animal model systems of interest include humans, mice, and zebrafish, which vary in cardiac regenerative responses possibly due to the differential onsets and intensities of endocrine signaling levels throughout their embryonic to postnatal organismal development. Zebrafish and lower vertebrates tend to retain robust cardiac regenerative capacity into adulthood while mice and other higher vertebrates experience greatly diminished cardiac regenerative potential in their initial postnatal period that is sustained throughout adulthood. Here, we review recent progress in understanding how these three endocrine signaling pathways regulate cardiomyocyte proliferation and heart regeneration with a particular focus on the controversial findings that may arise from different assays, cellular-context, age, and species. Further investigating the role of each endocrine nuclear receptor in cardiac regeneration from an evolutionary perspective enables comparative studies between species in hopes of extrapolating the findings to novel therapies for human cardiovascular disease.