Anatomy and Cell Biology Publications

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Cholinergic control of the heart is exerted by two distinct branches; the autonomic component represented by the parasympathetic nervous system, and the recently described non-neuronal cardiomyocyte cholinergic machinery. Previous evidence has shown that reduced cholinergic function leads to deleterious effects on the myocardium. Yet, whether conditions of increased cholinergic signaling can offset the pathological remodeling induced by sympathetic hyperactivity, and its consequences for these two cholinergic axes are unknown. Here, we investigated two models of sympathetic hyperactivity: i) the chronic beta-adrenergic receptor stimulation evoked by isoproterenol (ISO), and ii) the alpha(2A)/alpha(2C)-drenergic receptor knockout (KO) mice that lack pre-synaptic adrenergic receptors. In both models, cholinergic signaling was increased by administration of the cholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine. First, we observed that isoproterenol produces an autonomic imbalance characterized by increased sympathetic and reduced parasympathetic tone. Under this condition transcripts for cholinergic proteins were upregulated in ventricular myocytes, indicating that non-neuronal cholinergic machinery is activated during adrenergic overdrive. Pyridostigmine treatment prevented the effects of ISO on autonomic function and on the ventricular cholinergic machinery, and inhibited cardiac remodeling. alpha(2A)/alpha(2C)-KO mice presented reduced ventricular contraction when compared to wild-type mice, and this dysfunction was also reversed by cholinesterase inhibition. Thus, the cardiac parasympathetic system and non-neuronal cardiomyocyte cholinergic machinery are modulated in opposite directions under conditions of increased sympathetic drive or ACh availability. Moreover, our data support the idea that pyridostigmine by restoring ACh availability is beneficial in heart disease.

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