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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2009 Apr 1;236(1):25-38. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2008.12.027. Epub 2009 Jan 22.

Clinically relevant concentrations of di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) uncouple cardiac syncytium.

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Pharmacology and Physiology Department, The George Washington University, 2300 Eye Street, Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a widely used plasticizer found in a variety of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) medical products. The results of studies in experimental animals suggest that DEHP leached from flexible PVC tubing may cause health problems in some patient populations. While the cancerogenic and reproductive effects of DEHP are well recognized, little is known about the potential adverse impact of phthalates on the heart. This study examined the effects of clinically relevant concentrations of DEHP on neonatal rat cardiomyocytes. It was found that application of DEHP to a confluent, synchronously beating cardiac cell network, leads to a marked, concentration-dependent decrease in conduction velocity and asynchronous cell beating. The mechanism behind these changes was a loss of gap junctional connexin-43, documented using Western blot analysis, dye-transfer assay and immunofluorescence. In addition to its effect on electrical coupling, DEHP treatment also affected the mechanical movement of myocyte layers. The latter was linked to the decreased stiffness of the underlying fibroblasts, as the amount of triton-insoluble vimentin was significantly decreased in DEHP-treated samples. The data indicate that DEHP, in clinically relevant concentrations, can impair the electrical and mechanical behavior of a cardiac cell network. Applicability of these findings to human patients remains to be established.

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