Objectives. This study was performed to investigate the effect of single or multiple brief periods of ischemia and the administration of exogenous norepinephrine before a more prolonged ischemic period and after reperfusion in adult and senescent isolated and perfused rat hearts. Background. The mortality rate for coronary artery disease is greater in the elderly. Ischemic preconditioning has been proposed as an endogenous form of protection against ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, the role of preconditioning in aging heart is unknown. Methods. We compared the protective effect of preconditioning transient ischemic and norepinephrine stimuli against 20 min of global normothermic ischemia and 40 min of reperfusion in isolated perfused hearts of adult (6 months old) and senescent (24 months old) rats. Norepinephrine release in coronary effluent was determined by high performance liquid chromatography. Results. Final recovery of percent developed pressure was improved after single preconditioning transient ischemic and norepinephrine stimuli in adult hearts (87.7 ± 9% and 82.3 ± 8.7%) versus unconditioned control hearts (50.6 ± 4.8%, p <0.01 [mean ± SD]). The effect of preconditioning on developed pressure recovery was not present in senescent hearts after transient ischemic stimulus (39.8 ± 4.9% vs. 41.6 ± 5.8%, p = NS) but was present after norepinephrine stimulus (74.3 ± 10.5, p <0.01). Norepinephrine release significantly increased after preconditioning transient ischemic stimulus in adult but not in senescent hearts (p <0.01 vs. adult). Transient ischemic- and norepinephrine-induced preconditioning was blocked by alpha-adrenergic receptor antagonists in both adult and senescent hearts. Multiple transient ischemic stimuli were able to reduce postischemic dysfunction in adult but not in senescent hearts. Conclusions. Preconditioning transient ischemic stimulus significantly reduces postischemic dysfunction in adult but not in senescent hearts, whereas exogenous norepinephrine is able to mimic preconditioning in both adult and senescent hearts. Ischemic preconditioning induces an increase in norepinephrine release in adult but not in senescent hearts. Preconditioning induced by transient ischemic stimulus and norepinephrine was abolished by alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade in both adult and senescent hearts. Thus, our data demonstrate that preconditioning is absent in aging heart and is probably related to the reduction of norepinephrine release and alpha-adrenergic receptor stimulation in response to ischemic preconditioning.
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