Growth hormone (GH) plays a key role in cardiac growth and function. However, excessive levels of GH often result in cardiac dysfunction, which is the major cause of death in acromegalic patients. Transgenic mice with GH over-expression serve as useful models for acromegaly and exhibit impaired cardiac functions using echocardiography, similar to those of human acromegaly. However, the mechanism underscoring the impaired ventricular function has not been well defined. This study was designed to evaluate the cardiac excitation-contraction coupling in GH over-expressing transgenic mice at the single ventricular myocyte level. Myocytes were isolated from GH and age-matched wild-type mouse hearts. Mechanical properties were evaluated using an IonOptix MyoCam system. The contractile properties analyzed included peak shortening (PS), time-to-peak shortening (TPS) and time-to-90% relengthening (TR(90)), and maximal velocities of shortening/relengthening (+/-dL/dt). Intracellular Ca2+ properties were evaluated by fura-2. GH transgenic mice exhibited significantly increased body weights and enlarged heart and myocyte size. Myocytes from GH transgenic mice displayed significantly enhanced PS and+/-dL/dt associated with similar TPS and TR(90) compared with the wild-type littermates. Myocytes from GH transgenic mice displayed a similar resting intracellular Ca2+ level and Ca2+ removal rate but exhibited an elevated peak intracellular Ca2+ level compared with the wild-type group. Myocytes from both groups were equally responsive to increases in extracellular Ca2+ concentration and stimulating frequency. These results suggest that GH over-expression is associated with enhanced contractile function in isolated myocytes and that the impaired cardiac function observed in whole hearts may not be due to defects at the myocyte level.
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