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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Jan;300(1):H144-53. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00522.2010. Epub 2010 Oct 22.

Stress-induced opening of the permeability transition pore in the dystrophin-deficient heart is attenuated by acute treatment with sildenafil.

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Department of Kinesiology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Susceptibility of cardiomyocytes to stress-induced damage has been implicated in the development of cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease caused by the lack of the cytoskeletal protein dystrophin in which heart failure is frequent. However, the factors underlying the disease progression are unclear and treatments are limited. Here, we tested the hypothesis of a greater susceptibility to the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (PTP) in hearts from young dystrophic (mdx) mice (before the development of overt cardiomyopathy) when subjected to a stress protocol and determined whether the prevention of a PTP opening is involved in the cardioprotective effect of sildenafil, which we have previously reported in mdx mice. Using the 2-deoxy-[(3)H]glucose method to quantify the PTP opening in ex vivo perfused hearts, we demonstrate that when compared with those of controls, the hearts from young mdx mice subjected to ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) display an excessive PTP opening as well as enhanced activation of cell death signaling, mitochondrial oxidative stress, cardiomyocyte damage, and poorer recovery of contractile function. Functional analyses in permeabilized cardiac fibers from nonischemic hearts revealed that in vitro mitochondria from mdx hearts display normal respiratory function and reactive oxygen species handling, but enhanced Ca(2+) uptake velocity and premature opening of the PTP, which may predispose to I/R-induced injury. The administration of a single dose of sildenafil to mdx mice before I/R prevented excessive PTP opening and its downstream consequences and reduced tissue Ca(2+) levels. Furthermore, mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake velocity was reduced following sildenafil treatment. In conclusion, beyond our documentation that an increased susceptibility to the opening of the mitochondrial PTP in the mdx heart occurs well before clinical signs of overt cardiomyopathy, our results demonstrate that sildenafil, which is already administered in other pediatric populations and is reported safe and well tolerated, provides efficient protection against this deleterious event, likely by reducing cellular Ca(2+) loading and mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake.

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