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1.  Cholinergic Signaling Exerts Protective Effects in Models of Sympathetic Hyperactivity-Induced Cardiac Dysfunction 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100179.
Cholinergic control of the heart is exerted by two distinct branches; the autonomic component represented by the parasympathetic nervous system, and the recently described non-neuronal cardiomyocyte cholinergic machinery. Previous evidence has shown that reduced cholinergic function leads to deleterious effects on the myocardium. Yet, whether conditions of increased cholinergic signaling can offset the pathological remodeling induced by sympathetic hyperactivity, and its consequences for these two cholinergic axes are unknown. Here, we investigated two models of sympathetic hyperactivity: i) the chronic beta-adrenergic receptor stimulation evoked by isoproterenol (ISO), and ii) the α2A/α2C-adrenergic receptor knockout (KO) mice that lack pre-synaptic adrenergic receptors. In both models, cholinergic signaling was increased by administration of the cholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine. First, we observed that isoproterenol produces an autonomic imbalance characterized by increased sympathetic and reduced parasympathetic tone. Under this condition transcripts for cholinergic proteins were upregulated in ventricular myocytes, indicating that non-neuronal cholinergic machinery is activated during adrenergic overdrive. Pyridostigmine treatment prevented the effects of ISO on autonomic function and on the ventricular cholinergic machinery, and inhibited cardiac remodeling. α2A/α2C-KO mice presented reduced ventricular contraction when compared to wild-type mice, and this dysfunction was also reversed by cholinesterase inhibition. Thus, the cardiac parasympathetic system and non-neuronal cardiomyocyte cholinergic machinery are modulated in opposite directions under conditions of increased sympathetic drive or ACh availability. Moreover, our data support the idea that pyridostigmine by restoring ACh availability is beneficial in heart disease.
PMCID: PMC4081111  PMID: 24992197
2.  Lack of β2-adrenoceptors aggravates heart failure-induced skeletal muscle myopathy in mice 
Skeletal myopathy is a hallmark of heart failure (HF) and has been associated with a poor prognosis. HF and other chronic degenerative diseases share a common feature of a stressed system: sympathetic hyperactivity. Although beneficial acutely, chronic sympathetic hyperactivity is one of the main triggers of skeletal myopathy in HF. Considering that β2-adrenoceptors mediate the activity of sympathetic nervous system in skeletal muscle, we presently evaluated the contribution of β2-adrenoceptors for the morphofunctional alterations in skeletal muscle and also for exercise intolerance induced by HF. Male WT and β2-adrenoceptor knockout mice on a FVB genetic background (β2KO) were submitted to myocardial infarction (MI) or SHAM surgery. Ninety days after MI both WT and β2KO mice presented to cardiac dysfunction and remodelling accompanied by significantly increased norepinephrine and epinephrine plasma levels, exercise intolerance, changes towards more glycolytic fibres and vascular rarefaction in plantaris muscle. However, β2KO MI mice displayed more pronounced exercise intolerance and skeletal myopathy when compared to WT MI mice. Skeletal muscle atrophy of infarcted β2KO mice was paralleled by reduced levels of phosphorylated Akt at Ser 473 while increased levels of proteins related with the ubiquitin-–proteasome system, and increased 26S proteasome activity. Taken together, our results suggest that lack of β2-adrenoceptors worsen and/or anticipate the skeletal myopathy observed in HF.
PMCID: PMC4508148  PMID: 24629015
heart failure; skeletal muscle; β2-adrenoceptors; proteasome
3.  Baroreflex deficiency induces additional impairment of vagal tone, diastolic function and calcium handling proteins after myocardial infarction 
Baroreflex dysfunction has been considered an important mortality predictor after myocardial infarction (MI). However, the impact of baroreflex deficiency prior to MI on tonic autonomic control and cardiac function, and on the profile of proteins associated with intracellular calcium handling has not yet been studied. The aim of the present study was to analyze how the impairment of baroreflex induced by sinoaortic denervation (SAD) prior to MI in rats affects the tonic autonomic control, ventricular function and cardiomyocyte calcium handling proteins. After 15 days of following or SAD surgery, rats underwent MI. Echocardiographic, hemodynamic, autonomic and molecular evaluations were performed 90 days after MI. Baroreflex impairment led to additional damage on: left ventricular remodeling, diastolic function, vagal tonus and intrinsic heart rate after MI. The loss of vagal component of the arterial baroreflex and vagal tonus were correlated with changes in the cardiac proteins involved in intracellular calcium homeostasis. Furthermore, additional increase in sodium calcium exchanger expression levels was associated with impaired diastolic function in experimental animals. Our findings strongly suggest that previous arterial baroreflex deficiency may induce additional impairment of vagal tonus, which was associated with calcium handling proteins abnormalities, probably triggering ventricular diastolic dysfunction after MI in rats.
PMCID: PMC4058313  PMID: 24936224
Arterial baroreflex; myocardial infarction; autonomic tone; cardiac function; cardiac remodeling; calcium handling proteins
4.  Differential targeting and function of α2A and α2C adrenergic receptor subtypes in cultured sympathetic neurons 
Neuropharmacology  2006;51(3):397-413.
Previous research suggested that α2A and α2C adrenergic receptor (AR) subtypes have overlapping but unique physiological roles in neuronal signaling; however, the basis for these dissimilarities is not completely known. To better understand the observed functional differences between these autoreceptors, we investigated targeting and signaling of endogenously expressed α2A and α2CARs in cultured sympathetic ganglion neurons (SGN). At Days 1 and 4, α2A and α2CARs could be readily detected in SGN from wild-type mice. By Day 8, α2AARs were targeted to cell body, as well as axonal and dendritic sites, whereas α2CARs were primarily localized to an intracellular vesicular pool within the cell body and proximal dendritic projections. Expression of synaptic vesicle marker protein SV2 did not differ at Day 8 nor co-localize with either subtype. By Day 16, however, α2CARs had relocated to somatodendritic and axonal sites and, unlike α2AARs, co-localized with SV2 at synaptic contact sites. Consistent with a functional role for α2ARs, we also observed that dexmedetomidine stimulation of cultured SGN more efficiently inhibited depolarization-induced calcium entry into older, compared to younger, cultures. These results provide direct evidence of distinct developmental patterns of endogenous α2A and α2CAR targeting and function in a native cell system and that maturation of SGN in culture leads to alterations in neuronal properties required for proper targeting. More importantly, the co-localization at Day 16 of α2CARs at sites of synaptic contact may partially explain the differential modulation of neurotransmitter release and responsiveness to action potential frequency observed between α2A and α2CARs in SGN.
PMCID: PMC4010102  PMID: 16750543
α2 adrenergic receptor; Sympathetic ganglion neuron; Trafficking; Dexmedetomidine; SV2
5.  Isoproterenol Induces Vascular Oxidative Stress and Endothelial Dysfunction via a Giα-Coupled β2-Adrenoceptor Signaling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91877.
Sustained β-adrenergic stimulation is a hallmark of sympathetic hyperactivity in cardiovascular diseases. It is associated with oxidative stress and altered vasoconstrictor tone. This study investigated the β-adrenoceptor subtype and the signaling pathways implicated in the vascular effects of β-adrenoceptor overactivation.
Methods and Results
Mice lacking the β1- or β2-adrenoceptor subtype (β1KO, β2KO) and wild-type (WT) were treated with isoproterenol (ISO, 15 μg.g−−1, 7 days). ISO significantly enhanced the maximal vasoconstrictor response (Emax) of the aorta to phenylephrine in WT (+34%) and β1KO mice (+35%) but not in β2KO mice. The nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor L-NAME abolished the differences in phenylephrine response between the groups, suggesting that ISO impaired basal NO availability in the aorta of WT and β1KO mice. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), pertussis toxin (PTx) or PD 98,059 (p-ERK 1/2 inhibitor) incubation reversed the hypercontractility of aortic rings from ISO-treated WT mice; aortic contraction of ISO-treated β2KO mice was not altered. Immunoblotting revealed increased aortic expression of Giα-3 protein (+50%) and phosphorylated ERK1/2 (+90%) and decreased eNOS dimer/monomer ratio in ISO-treated WT mice. ISO enhanced the fluorescence response to dihydroethidium (+100%) in aortas from WT mice, indicating oxidative stress that was normalized by SOD, PTx and L-NAME. The ISO effects were abolished in β2KO mice.
The β2-adrenoceptor/Giα signaling pathway is implicated in the enhanced vasoconstrictor response and eNOS uncoupling-mediated oxidative stress due to ISO treatment. Thus, long-term β2-AR activation might results in endothelial dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3951496  PMID: 24622771
6.  Autophagy Signaling in Skeletal Muscle of Infarcted Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85820.
Heart failure (HF)-induced skeletal muscle atrophy is often associated to exercise intolerance and poor prognosis. Better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying HF-induced muscle atrophy may contribute to the development of pharmacological strategies to prevent or treat such condition. It has been shown that autophagy-lysosome system is an important mechanism for maintenance of muscle mass. However, its role in HF-induced myopathy has not been addressed yet. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to evaluate autophagy signaling in myocardial infarction (MI)-induced muscle atrophy in rats.
Methods/Principal Findings
Wistar rats underwent MI or Sham surgeries, and after 12 weeks were submitted to echocardiography, exercise tolerance and histology evaluations. Cathepsin L activity and expression of autophagy-related genes and proteins were assessed in soleus and plantaris muscles by fluorimetric assay, qRT-PCR and immunoblotting, respectively. MI rats displayed exercise intolerance, left ventricular dysfunction and dilation, thereby suggesting the presence of HF. The key findings of the present study were: a) upregulation of autophagy-related genes (GABARAPL1, ATG7, BNIP3, CTSL1 and LAMP2) was observed only in plantaris while muscle atrophy was observed in both soleus and plantaris muscles, and b) Cathepsin L activity, Bnip3 and Fis1 protein levels, and levels of lipid hydroperoxides were increased specifically in plantaris muscle of MI rats.
Altogether our results provide evidence for autophagy signaling regulation in HF-induced plantaris atrophy but not soleus atrophy. Therefore, autophagy-lysosome system is differentially regulated in atrophic muscles comprising different fiber-types and metabolic characteristics.
PMCID: PMC3888434  PMID: 24427319
9.  Exercise Training Restores Cardiac Protein Quality Control in Heart Failure 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52764.
Exercise training is a well-known coadjuvant in heart failure treatment; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying its beneficial effects remain elusive. Despite the primary cause, heart failure is often preceded by two distinct phenomena: mitochondria dysfunction and cytosolic protein quality control disruption. The objective of the study was to determine the contribution of exercise training in regulating cardiac mitochondria metabolism and cytosolic protein quality control in a post-myocardial infarction-induced heart failure (MI-HF) animal model. Our data demonstrated that isolated cardiac mitochondria from MI-HF rats displayed decreased oxygen consumption, reduced maximum calcium uptake and elevated H2O2 release. These changes were accompanied by exacerbated cardiac oxidative stress and proteasomal insufficiency. Declined proteasomal activity contributes to cardiac protein quality control disruption in our MI-HF model. Using cultured neonatal cardiomyocytes, we showed that either antimycin A or H2O2 resulted in inactivation of proteasomal peptidase activity, accumulation of oxidized proteins and cell death, recapitulating our in vivo model. Of interest, eight weeks of exercise training improved cardiac function, peak oxygen uptake and exercise tolerance in MI-HF rats. Moreover, exercise training restored mitochondrial oxygen consumption, increased Ca2+-induced permeability transition and reduced H2O2 release in MI-HF rats. These changes were followed by reduced oxidative stress and better cardiac protein quality control. Taken together, our findings uncover the potential contribution of mitochondrial dysfunction and cytosolic protein quality control disruption to heart failure and highlight the positive effects of exercise training in re-establishing cardiac mitochondrial physiology and protein quality control, reinforcing the importance of this intervention as a non-pharmacological tool for heart failure therapy.
PMCID: PMC3531365  PMID: 23300764
10.  Pharmacological inhibition of βIIPKC is cardioprotective in late-stage hypertrophy 
We previously found that in the hearts of hypertensive Dahl salt-sensitive rats, βIIPKC levels increase during the transition from compensated cardiac hypertrophy to cardiac dysfunction. Here we showed that a six-week treatment of these hypertensive rats with a βIIPKC-specific inhibitor, βIIV5-3, prolonged their survival by at least six weeks, suppressed myocardial fibrosis and inflammation, and delayed the transition from compensated hypertrophy to cardiac dysfunction. In addition, changes in the levels of the Ca2+-handling proteins, SERCA2 and the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, as well as troponin I phosphorylation, seen in the control-treated hypertensive rats were not observed in the βIIPKC-treated rats, suggesting that βIIPKC contributes to the regulation of calcium levels in the myocardium. In contrast, treatment with the selective inhibitor of βIPKC, an alternative spliced form of βIIPKC, had no beneficial effects in these rats. We also found that βIIV5-3, but not βIV5-3, improved calcium handling in isolated rat cardiomyocytes and enhanced contractility in isolated rat hearts. In conclusion, our data using an in vivo model of cardiac dysfunction (late-phase hypertrophy), suggest that βIIPKC contributes to the pathology associated with heart failure and thus an inhibitor of βIIPKC may be a potential treatment for this disease.
PMCID: PMC3418885  PMID: 21920368
11.  Exercise Training Prevents Oxidative Stress and Ubiquitin-Proteasome System Overactivity and Reverse Skeletal Muscle Atrophy in Heart Failure 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41701.
Heart failure (HF) is known to lead to skeletal muscle atrophy and dysfunction. However, intracellular mechanisms underlying HF-induced myopathy are not fully understood. We hypothesized that HF would increase oxidative stress and ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) activation in skeletal muscle of sympathetic hyperactivity mouse model. We also tested the hypothesis that aerobic exercise training (AET) would reestablish UPS activation in mice and human HF.
Methods/Principal Findings
Time-course evaluation of plantaris muscle cross-sectional area, lipid hydroperoxidation, protein carbonylation and chymotrypsin-like proteasome activity was performed in a mouse model of sympathetic hyperactivity-induced HF. At the 7th month of age, HF mice displayed skeletal muscle atrophy, increased oxidative stress and UPS overactivation. Moderate-intensity AET restored lipid hydroperoxides and carbonylated protein levels paralleled by reduced E3 ligases mRNA levels, and reestablished chymotrypsin-like proteasome activity and plantaris trophicity. In human HF (patients randomized to sedentary or moderate-intensity AET protocol), skeletal muscle chymotrypsin-like proteasome activity was also increased and AET restored it to healthy control subjects’ levels.
Collectively, our data provide evidence that AET effectively counteracts redox imbalance and UPS overactivation, preventing skeletal myopathy and exercise intolerance in sympathetic hyperactivity-induced HF in mice. Of particular interest, AET attenuates skeletal muscle proteasome activity paralleled by improved aerobic capacity in HF patients, which is not achieved by drug treatment itself. Altogether these findings strengthen the clinical relevance of AET in the treatment of HF.
PMCID: PMC3411696  PMID: 22870245
12.  Hyperglycemia can delay left ventricular dysfunction but not autonomic damage after myocardial infarction in rodents 
Although clinical diabetes mellitus is obviously a high risk factor for myocardial infarction (MI), in experimental studies disagreement exists about the sensitivity to ischemic injury of an infarcted myocardium. Recently, our group demonstrated that diabetic animals presented better cardiac function recovery and cellular resistance to ischemic injury than nondiabetics. In the present study, we evaluated the chronic effects of MI on left ventricular (LV) and autonomic functions in streptozotocin (STZ) diabetic rats.
Male Wistar rats were divided into 4 groups: control (C, n = 15), diabetes (D, n = 16), MI (I, n = 21), and diabetes + MI (DI, n = 30). MI was induced 15 days after diabetes (STZ) induction. Ninety days after MI, LV and autonomic functions were evaluated (8 animals each group). Left ventricular homogenates were analyzed by Western blotting to evaluate the expression of calcium handling proteins.
MI area was similar in infarcted groups (~43%). Ejection fraction and +dP/dt were reduced in I compared with DI. End-diastolic pressure was additionally increased in I compared with DI. Compared with DI, I had increased Na+-Ca2+ exchange and phospholamban expression (164%) and decreased phosphorylated phospholamban at serine16 (65%) and threonine17 (70%) expression. Nevertheless, diabetic groups had greater autonomic dysfunction, observed by baroreflex sensitivity and pulse interval variability reductions. Consequently, the mortality rate was increased in DI compared with I, D, and C groups.
LV dysfunction in diabetic animals was attenuated after 90 days of myocardial infarction and was associated with a better profile of calcium handling proteins. However, this positive adaptation was not able to reduce the mortality rate of DI animals, suggesting that autonomic dysfunction is associated with increased mortality in this group. Therefore, it is possible that the better cardiac function has been transitory, and the autonomic dysfunction, more prominent in diabetic group, may lead, in the future, to the cardiovascular damage.
PMCID: PMC3084163  PMID: 21470409
13.  Impact of gender on benefits of exercise training on sympathetic nerve activity and muscle blood flow in heart failure 
We compared the effects of exercise training on neurovascular control and functional capacity in men and women with chronic heart failure (HF).
Methods and results
Forty consecutive HF outpatients from the Heart Institute, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil were divided into the following four groups matched by age: men exercise-trained (n = 12), men untrained (n = 10), women exercise-trained (n = 9), women untrained (n = 9). Maximal exercise capacity was determined from a maximal progressive exercise test on a cycle ergometer. Forearm blood flow was measured by venous occlusion plethysmography. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) was recorded directly using the technique of microneurography. There were no differences between groups in any baseline parameters. Exercise training produced a similar reduction in resting MSNA (P = 0.000002) and forearm vascular resistance (P = 0.0003), in men and women with HF. Peak VO2 was similarly increased in men and women with HF (P = 0.0003) and VE/VCO2 slope was significantly decreased in men and women with HF (P = 0.0007). There were no significant changes in left-ventricular ejection fraction in men and women with HF.
The benefits of exercise training on neurovascular control and functional capacity in patients with HF are independent of gender.
PMCID: PMC2796143  PMID: 20023046
Heart failure; Exercise training; Gender; Forearm blood flow; Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
14.  Dysautonomia Due to Reduced Cholinergic Neurotransmission Causes Cardiac Remodeling and Heart Failure ▿ ‡  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(7):1746-1756.
Overwhelming evidence supports the importance of the sympathetic nervous system in heart failure. In contrast, much less is known about the role of failing cholinergic neurotransmission in cardiac disease. By using a unique genetically modified mouse line with reduced expression of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) and consequently decreased release of acetylcholine, we investigated the consequences of altered cholinergic tone for cardiac function. M-mode echocardiography, hemodynamic experiments, analysis of isolated perfused hearts, and measurements of cardiomyocyte contraction indicated that VAChT mutant mice have decreased left ventricle function associated with altered calcium handling. Gene expression was analyzed by quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR and Western blotting, and the results indicated that VAChT mutant mice have profound cardiac remodeling and reactivation of the fetal gene program. This phenotype was attributable to reduced cholinergic tone, since administration of the cholinesterase inhibitor pyridostigmine for 2 weeks reversed the cardiac phenotype in mutant mice. Our findings provide direct evidence that decreased cholinergic neurotransmission and underlying autonomic imbalance cause plastic alterations that contribute to heart dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC2838086  PMID: 20123977
15.  Ischaemic preconditioning improves proteasomal activity and increases the degradation of δPKC during reperfusion 
Cardiovascular Research  2009;85(2):385-394.
The response of the myocardium to an ischaemic insult is regulated by two highly homologous protein kinase C (PKC) isozymes, δ and εPKC. Here, we determined the spatial and temporal relationships between these two isozymes in the context of ischaemia/reperfusion (I/R) and ischaemic preconditioning (IPC) to better understand their roles in cardioprotection.
Methods and results
Using an ex vivo rat model of myocardial infarction, we found that short bouts of ischaemia and reperfusion prior to the prolonged ischaemic event (IPC) diminished δPKC translocation by 3.8-fold and increased εPKC accumulation at mitochondria by 16-fold during reperfusion. In addition, total cellular levels of δPKC decreased by 60 ± 2.7% in response to IPC, whereas the levels of εPKC did not significantly change. Prolonged ischaemia induced a 48 ± 11% decline in the ATP-dependent proteasomal activity and increased the accumulation of misfolded proteins during reperfusion by 192 ± 32%; both of these events were completely prevented by IPC. Pharmacological inhibition of the proteasome or selective inhibition of εPKC during IPC restored δPKC levels at the mitochondria while decreasing εPKC levels, resulting in a loss of IPC-induced protection from I/R. Importantly, increased myocardial injury was the result, in part, of restoring a δPKC-mediated I/R pro-apoptotic phenotype by decreasing pro-survival signalling and increasing cytochrome c release into the cytosol.
Taken together, our findings indicate that IPC prevents I/R injury at reperfusion by protecting ATP-dependent 26S proteasomal function. This decreases the accumulation of the pro-apoptotic kinase, δPKC, at cardiac mitochondria, resulting in the accumulation of the pro-survival kinase, εPKC.
PMCID: PMC2797452  PMID: 19820255
Cardioprotection; Ischaemia/reperfusion; Apoptosis; Proteasome; PKC; Ischaemic preconditioning

Results 1-15 (15)