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OBJECTIVE: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine which is a prognostic marker associated with left ventricular contractile dysfunction and heart failure. On the other hand, IL-6 activates signalling pathways which mediate delayed ischemic preconditioning. We have therefore studied the cellular mechanisms of IL-6-induced cardioprotection. METHODS: Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression, cardiomyocyte calcium handling, mitochondrial energetics, and the activation of protective signalling pathways in response to IL-6 were studied in a model of simulated ischemia/reperfusion (sI/R) in isolated neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes. RESULTS: Reperfusion after sI/R induced a rise in cytosolic [Ca2+], a loss of cell morphology and integrity, and a transient increase in mitochondrial potential (Deltapsi m), followed by mitochondrial swelling and collapse of Deltapsi m. Pre-treatment of cardiomyocytes with 10 ng/ml IL-6 for 6 h, 24 h prior to sI/R prevented the secondary rise in cytosolic [Ca2+] and induced expression of iNOS and NO-dependent protection against sI/R injury. The protection against sI/R was concomitant with a NO-dependent reduction in the amplitude of cytosolic Ca2+ transients. IL-6 induced an increase in inner mitochondrial membrane polarisation and increased mitochondrial Ca2+ loading (rhod-2 fluorescence) at baseline, but prevented the reperfusion-induced changes in mitochondrial function. IL-6 pre-treatment also resulted in activation of the phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase/Akt pathway, and both iNOS induction and IL-6-dependent protection were blocked by the PI 3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin. CONCLUSION: IL-6 induces a PI 3-kinase and NO-dependent protection of cardiomyocytes, which is associated with alterations in mitochondrial Ca2+ handling, inhibition of reperfusion-induced mitochondrial depolarisation, swelling and loss of structural integrity, and suppression of cytosolic Ca2+ transients.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovasc Res

Publication Date





164 - 177


Androstadienes, Animals, Calcium, Cells, Cultured, Cytosol, Enzyme Inhibitors, Interleukin-6, Membrane Potentials, Microscopy, Confocal, Mitochondria, Heart, Myocardial Reperfusion Injury, Myocytes, Cardiac, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II, Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Sarcoplasmic Reticulum