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Basic Res Cardiol. 1998;93 Suppl 3:8-12.

Apoptosis and myocardial infarction.

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Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla 10595, USA.


Myocardial infarction was produced in rats and the contribution of apoptotic and necrotic myocyte cell death was measured quantitatively. Myocyte cell death by apoptosis involved 2.8 million cells at 2 hours after coronary artery occlusion and necrosis only 90,000 cells. Myocyte apoptosis continued to represent the major form of cell death, affecting 6.6 million cells at 4.5 hours, whereas myocyte necrosis peaked at 1 day, including 1.1 million cells. Apoptotic myocyte cell death was also present in the surviving portion of the wall adjacent to and remote from the infarcted myocardium where it peaked at 1-2 days. At this interval, 700/10(6) and 110/10(6) myocyte nuclei were undergoing apoptosis in the non-infarcted tissue bordering on and away from the ischemic area, respectively. Myocyte necrosis was absent in the viable myocardium after infarction. Since mechanical forces produced by pathologic loads may activate apoptosis, papillary muscles were exposed to high levels of resting tension in vitro and the magnitude of cell death in these samples was determined. Overstretching resulted in a 21-fold increase in apoptotic myocyte cell death which was coupled with the formation of reactive oxygen species, side-to-side slippage of myocytes, and depressed tension generation of the myocardium. In conclusion, apoptotic myocyte cell death plays a major role in ventricular remodeling after infarction, but whether physical forces, oxidant stress, architectural rearrangement of myocytes, and impaired force development of the myocardium in vivo are causaly related requires further investigation.

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