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J Biol Chem. 2005 Apr 1;280(13):12944-55. Epub 2005 Jan 24.

Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor sildenafil preconditions adult cardiac myocytes against necrosis and apoptosis. Essential role of nitric oxide signaling.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Richmond, Virginia 23298-0281, USA.


We investigated the effect of sildenafil in protection against necrosis or apoptosis in cardiomyocytes. Adult mouse ventricular myocytes were treated with sildenafil (1 or 10 microM) for 1 h before 40 min of simulated ischemia (SI). Necrosis was determined by trypan blue exclusion and lactate dehydrogenase release following SI alone or plus 1 or 18 h of reoxygenation (RO). Apoptosis was assessed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling assay and mitochondrial membrane potential measured using a fluorescent probe 5,5',6,6'-tetrachloro-1,1',3,3'-tetraethylbenzimidazolyl-carbocyanine iodide (JC-1). Sildenafil reduced necrosis as indicated by decrease in trypan blue-positive myocytes and leakage of lactate dehydrogenase compared with untreated cells after either SI or SI-RO. The number of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling-positive myocytes or loss of JC-1 fluorescence following SI and 18 h of RO was attenuated in the sildenafil-treated group with concomitant inhibition of caspase 3 activity. An early increase in Bcl-2 to Bax ratio with sildenafil treatment was also observed in myocytes after SI-RO. The increase of Bcl-2 expression by sildenafil was inhibited by nitric-oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor, L-nitro-amino-methyl-ester. The drug also enhanced mRNA and protein content of inducible NOS (iNOS) and endothelial NOS (eNOS) in the myocytes. Sildenafil-induced protection against necrosis and apoptosis was absent in the myocytes derived from iNOS knock-out mice and was attenuated in eNOS knock-out myocytes. The up-regulation of Bcl-2 expression by sildenafil was also absent in iNOS-deficient myocytes. Reverse transcription-PCR, Western blots, and immunohistochemical assay confirmed the expression of phosphodiesterase-5 in mouse cardiomyocytes. These data provide strong evidence for a direct protective effect of sildenafil against necrosis and apoptosis through NO signaling pathway. The results may have possible therapeutic potential in preventing myocyte cell death following ischemia/reperfusion.

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