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Circ Res. 1992 Aug;71(2):346-56.

Myocardial mechanical, biochemical, and structural alterations induced by chronic ethanol ingestion in rats.

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Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla 10595.


To determine the effects of moderate ethanol consumption on the mechanical, biochemical, and structural characteristics of the heart, myocardial mechanical performance, contractile protein enzyme activity, and the number and size of myocytes were measured in male Fischer 344 rats after the ingestion of 30% oral ethanol. Papillary muscles removed from the left ventricle were greater in length, weight, and cross-sectional area than the corresponding muscles from the right side. However, no differences were found between control and ethanol-treated myocardium when either the left or right side was compared separately. Chronic ethanol ingestion resulted in an increase in resting tension in left ventricular muscles, with no alteration in peak developed tension. Moreover, time to peak tension was significantly prolonged, whereas a depression was observed in the peak rate of isometric tension development. Isotonically, left muscles from ethanol-treated rats revealed a prolongation of time to peak shortening and a marked depression in the velocity of shortening at physiological loads. No changes were noted in muscles from the right ventricle. Contractile protein enzyme activity revealed no differences in myofibrillar Mg(2+)-ATPase activity in right and left ventricular myocardium between control and ethanol-treated rats in the presence of EGTA. However, at physiological activating levels of calcium, an upward shift of the myofibrillar Mg(2+)-ATPase activity-calcium curve occurred in left myocardium, whereas a depression in this relation was seen in the right ventricle. As a result of chronic ethanol intake, a decrease was noted in the volume percent of myocardium occupied by myocytes, and that myocyte cell volume per nucleus was found to remain essentially constant throughout the various layers of the ventricular wall. Importantly, a 14% significant decrease in the total number of myocyte nuclei was demonstrated in the left ventricular myocardium of rats on chronic ethanol consumption. Thus, chronic but moderate alcohol ingestion resulted in depressed contractile performance, alterations in myofibrillar Mg(2+)-ATPase activity, and myocyte loss. These events may serve to function as preliminary indicators of the onset of heart failure of alcoholic origin in this animal model.

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