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FASEB J. 1998 Dec;12(15):1785-92.

Cardiac myocytes rendered ischemia resistant by expressing the human adenosine A1 or A3 receptor.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, and Department of Pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Adenosine is an important mediator of the endogenous defense against ischemia-induced injury in the heart. Adenosine can achieve cardioprotection by mediating the effect of ischemic preconditioning and by protecting against myocyte injury when it is present during the infarct-producing ischemia. A novel adenosine A3 receptor can mediate this protective function. One approach to achieve cardioprotection is to enhance myocardial sensitivity to the endogenous adenosine by increasing the number of adenosine receptors instead of administering an adenosine receptor agonist. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether genetic manipulation of the cardiac myocyte, achieved by gene transfer and overexpression of the human A3 receptor cDNA, renders the myocytes resistant to the deleterious effect of ischemia. Prolonged hypoxia with glucose deprivation, causing myocyte injury and adenosine release, was used to simulate ischemia in cultured chick embryo ventricular myocytes. During simulated ischemia, cultured myocytes with enhanced expression of the human A3 receptor and showed significantly higher ATP content, fewer cells killed, and less creatine kinase released into the medium than either control or mock-transfected myocytes. Also, increased expression of the A3 receptor caused an enhanced cardioprotective effect by the preconditioning ischemia. Overexpressing the adenosine A1 receptor also led to increased protection against ischemia-induced myocyte injury as well as an enhanced preconditioning effect. Thus, increasing the receptor level improves the myocyte sensitivity to the endogenous adenosine, which in turn causes all of the cardioprotective effects found for exogenously administered adenosine agonists. The study provides the first proof for the new concept that an increased expression of the human A3 receptor in the cardiac myocyte can be an important cardioprotective therapeutic approach.

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