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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Mar 15;181(6):587-95. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200905-0794OC. Epub 2009 Dec 17.

Carbon monoxide pollution promotes cardiac remodeling and ventricular arrhythmia in healthy rats.

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  • 1INSERM U, CHU Arnaud de Villeneuve, Montpellier, France.



Epidemiologic studies associate atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) pollution with adverse cardiovascular outcomes and increased cardiac mortality risk. However, there is a lack of data regarding cellular mechanisms in healthy individuals.


To investigate the chronic effects of environmentally relevant CO levels on cardiac function in a well-standardized healthy animal model.


Wistar rats were exposed for 4 weeks to filtered air (CO < 1 ppm) or air enriched with CO (30 ppm with five peaks of 100 ppm per 24-h period), consistent with urban pollution. Myocardial function was assessed by echocardiography and analysis of surface ECG and in vitro by measuring the excitation-contraction coupling of single left ventricular cardiomyocytes.


Chronic CO pollution promoted left ventricular interstitial and perivascular fibrosis, with no change in cardiomyocyte size, and had weak, yet significant, effects on in vivo cardiac function. However, both contraction and relaxation of single cardiomyocytes were markedly altered. Several changes occurred, including decreased Ca(2+) transient amplitude and Ca(2+) sensitivity of myofilaments and increased diastolic intracellular Ca(2+) subsequent to decreased SERCA-2a expression and impaired Ca(2+) reuptake. CO pollution increased the number of arrhythmic events. Hyperphosphorylation of Ca(2+)-handling and sarcomeric proteins, and reduced responses to beta-adrenergic challenge were obtained, suggestive of moderate CO-induced hyperadrenergic state.


Chronic CO exposure promotes a pathological phenotype of cardiomyocytes in the absence of underlying cardiomyopathy. The less severe phenotype in vivo suggests a role for compensatory mechanisms. Arrhythmia propensity may derive from intracellular Ca(2+) overload.

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