Physiological changes induced in cardiac myocytes by cytotoxic lymphocytes: An autoimmune model

Ruhama Fixler, Yakhin Shimoni, David Hassin, Dan Admon, Shmuel Raz, Rena Yarom, Yonathan Hasin

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5 Scopus citations


Background: Cytotoxic lymphocytes are important in the pathogenesis of several disease states, yet, the pathophysiology of lymphocyte-myocyte interaction is not well known. Methods and Results: We have developed a model for the in vitro evaluation of autoimmune cytotoxic myocardial damage. Cardiac myocytes were repeatedly injected to adult autologous rats. Following 3 months, histological evidence of myocarditis was seen in 20% of the hearts. Cultured myocytes obtained from newborn rats were exposed to lymphocytes isolated from the immunized animals. Cytotoxic activity was measured using crystal violet staining test. The percentage of killing was increased as the ratio of lymphocytes/myocytes was increased. Verapamil did not block this cytotoxic effect. No killing was seen when myocytes were exposed to non- sensitized lymphocytes. Physiological changes induced in myocytes by cytotoxic lymphocytes were studied. Cell wall motion was measured by an optical method and action potentials with intracellular microelectrodes. Physiological changes observed in myocytes following exposure to cytotoxic lymphocytes included: Impaired relaxation with prolonged contractions, oscillations and prolongation of the plateau of the action potential. Cellular contraction was prolonged up to 4 s before total arrest of spontaneous activity. Verapamil but not tetrodotoxin restored action potentials and contractions to normal. Supernatant collected from cultures of myocytes and lymphocytes had the same effect on myocytes contractility as observed following exposure of myocytes to cytotoxic lymphocytes. Conclusions: This supports our hypothesis that these physiological alterations observed in myocytes are mediated by a soluble factor secreted by cytotoxic lymphocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiac Electrophysiology
  • Contractility
  • Cytotoxic Lymphocytes


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