Cyclosporine-insensitive mode of cell death after prolonged myocardial ischemia: Evidence for sarcolemmal permeabilization as the pivotal step

by Katie J. Sciuto, Steven W. Deng, Paul W. Venable, Mark Warren, Junco S. Warren, Alexey V. Zaitsev

A prominent theory of cell death in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) posits that the primary and pivotal step of irreversible cell injury is the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) pore. However, the predominantly positive evidence of protection against infarct afforded by the MPT inhibitor, Cyclosporine A (CsA), in experimental studies is in stark contrast with the overall lack of benefit found in clinical trials of CsA. One reason for the discrepancy might be the fact that relatively short experimental ischemic episodes (<1 hour) do not represent clinically-realistic durations, usually exceeding one hour. Here we tested the hypothesis that MPT is not the primary event of cell death after prolonged (60–80 min) episodes of global ischemia. We used confocal microcopy in Langendorff-perfused rabbit hearts treated with the electromechanical uncoupler, 2,3-Butanedione monoxime (BDM, 20 mM) to allow tracking of MPT and sarcolemmal permeabilization (SP) in individual ventricular myocytes. The time of the steepest drop in fluorescence of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm)-sensitive dye, TMRM, was used as the time of MPT (TMPT). The time of 20% uptake of the normally cell-impermeable dye, YO-PRO1, was used as the time of SP (TSP). We found that during reperfusion MPT and SP were tightly coupled, with MPT trending slightly ahead of SP (TSP-TMPT = 0.76±1.31 min; p = 0.07). These coupled MPT/SP events occurred in discrete myocytes without crossing cell boundaries. CsA (0.2 μM) did not reduce the infarct size, but separated SP and MPT events, such that detectable SP was significantly ahead of MPT (TSP -TMPT = -1.75±1.28 min, p = 0.006). Mild permeabilization of cells with digitonin (2.5–20 μM) caused coupled MPT/SP events which occurred in discrete myocytes similar to those observed in Control and CsA groups. In contrast, deliberate induction of MPT by titration with H2O2 (200–800 μM), caused propagating waves of MPT which crossed cell boundaries and were uncoupled from SP. Taken together, these findings suggest that after prolonged episodes of ischemia, SP is the primary step in myocyte death, of which MPT is an immediate and unavoidable consequence.

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