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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043003. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Mitochondrial function in permeabilized cardiomyocytes is largely preserved in the senescent rat myocardium.

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Department of Kinesiology, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The aging heart is characterized by a progressive decline in contractile function and diastolic relaxation. Amongst the factors implicated in these changes is a progressive replacement fibrosis secondary to cardiomyocyte death, oxidative damage, and energetic deficit, each of which may be secondary to impaired mitochondrial function. Here, we performed an in-depth examination of mitochondrial function in saponin-permeabilized cardiomyocyte bundles, a preparation where all mitochondria are represented and their structure intact, from young adult (YA) and senescent (SEN) rats (n = 8 per group). When accounting for increased fibrosis (+19%, P<0.01) and proportional decrease in citrate synthase activity in the SEN myocardium (-23%, P<0.05), mitochondrial respiration and reactive oxygen species (H(2)O(2)) emission across a range of energized states was similar between age groups. Accordingly, the abundance of electron transport chain proteins was also unchanged. Likewise, except for CuZnSOD (-37%, P<0.05), the activity of antioxidant enzymes was unaltered with aging. Although time to mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening was decreased (-25%, P<0.05) in the SEN heart, suggesting sensitization to apoptotic stimuli, this was not associated with a difference in apoptotic index measured by ELISA. Collectively, our results suggest that the function of existing cardiac ventricular mitochondria is relatively preserved in SEN rat heart when measured in permeabilized cells.

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