Environmental triggers of dilated cardiomyopathy are poorly understood. Acute exposure to acrolein, a ubiquitous aldehyde pollutant, impairs cardiac function and cardioprotective responses in mice. Here, we tested the hypothesis that chronic oral exposure to acrolein induces inflammation and cardiomyopathy. C57BL/6 mice were gavage-fed acrolein (1 mg/kg) or water (vehicle) daily for 48 days. The dose was chosen based on estimates of human daily unsaturated aldehyde consumption. Compared with vehicle-fed mice, acrolein-fed mice exhibited significant (P < 0.05) left ventricular (LV) dilatation (LV end-diastolic volume 36 ± 8 vs. 17 ± 5 jxl), contractile dysfunction (dP/dt max 4,697 ± 1,498 vs. 7,016 ± 1,757 mmHg/s), and impaired relaxation (tau 15.4 ± 4.3 vs. 10.4 ± 2.2 ms). Histological and biochemical evaluation revealed myocardial oxidative stress (membrane-localized protein-4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal adducts) and nitrative stress (increased protein-nitrotyrosine) and varying degrees of plasma and myocardial protein-acrolein adduct formation indicative of physical translocation of ingested acrolein to the heart. Acrolein also induced myocyte hypertrophy (~2.2-fold increased myocyte area, P < 0.05), increased apoptosis (~7.5-fold), and disrupted endothelial nitric oxide synthase in the heart. DNA binding studies, immunohistochemistry, and PCR revealed significant (P < 0.05) activation of nuclear fac-tor-KB in acrolein-exposed hearts, along with upregulated gene expression of proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-a and interleukin-1(3. Long-term oral exposure to acrolein, at an amount within the range of human unsaturated aldehyde intake, induces a phenotype of dilated cardiomyopathy in the mouse. Human exposure to acrolein may have analogous effects and raise consideration of an environmental, aldehyde-mediated basis for heart failure. © 2011 the American Physiological Society.