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Cholinoceptive and cholinergic properties of cardiomyocytes involving an amplification mechanism for vagal efferent effects in sparsely innervated ventricular myocardium

Kakinuma, Yoshihiko, Akiyama, Tsuyoshi, Sato, Takayuki
FEBS journal 2009 v.276 no.18 pp. 5111-5125
acetylcholine, acetylcholinesterase, atropine, cardiomyocytes, cell viability, choline acetyltransferase, cytoplasm, electron microscopy, energy metabolism, gene expression regulation, genes, heart failure, innervation, mice, muscles, myocardial infarction, oral administration, physostigmine, pilocarpine, protein synthesis, rats, small interfering RNA, transcription (genetics)
Our recent studies have shown that, as indicated by vagal stimulation, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil, an anti-Alzheimer's disease drug, prevents progression of heart failure in rats with myocardial infarction, and activates a common cell survival signal shared by acetylcholine (ACh) in vitro. On the basis of this and evidence that vagal innervation is extremely poor in the left ventricle, we assessed the hypothesis that ACh is produced by cardiomyocytes, which promotes its synthesis via a positive feedback mechanism. Rat cardiomyocytes expressed choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) in the cytoplasm and vesicular acetylcholine transporter with the vesicular structure identified by immunogold electron microscopy, suggesting that cardiomyocytes possess components for ACh synthesis. Intracellular ACh in rat cardiomyocytes was identified with physostigmine or donepezil. However, with atropine, the basal ACh content was reduced. In response to exogenous ACh or pilocarpine, cardiomyocytes increased the transcriptional activity of the ChAT gene through a muscarinic receptor and ChAT protein expression, and, finally, the intracellular ACh level was upregulated by pilocarpine. Knockdown of ChAT by small interfering RNA accelerated cellular energy metabolism, which is suppressed by ACh. Although physostigmine had a minimal effect on the ChAT promoter activity by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, donepezil resulted in elevation of the activity, protein expression and intracellular ACh level even in the presence of sufficient physostigmine. Orally administered donepezil in mice increased the ChAT promoter activity in a reporter gene-transferred quadriceps femoris muscle and the amount of cardiac ChAT protein. These findings suggest that cardiomyocytes possess an ACh synthesis system, which is positively modulated by cholinergic stimuli. Such an amplification system in cardiomyocytes may contribute to the beneficial effects of vagal stimulation on the ventricles.