Sympathetic neural modulation of cardiac impulse initiation and repolarization in the newborn rat

G. Malfatto, T. S. Rosen, S. F. Steinberg, P. C. Ursell, L. S. Sun, S. Daniel, P. Danilo, M. R. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We injected neonatal rats with nerve growth factor, the antiserum to nerve growth factor, or placebo for the first 10 days of life. Our goal was to determine the relation between sympathetic innervation of the developing heart, the electrocardiographic expression of cardiac rhythm, and the response of the heart to α-adrenergic stimulation with phenylephrine. We were especially interested in the latter area because of the prior demonstration in isolated cell systems of sympathetic neural modulation of a 41-kDa GTP regulatory protein and α-adrenergic responsiveness. Ten- to 11-day-old rats treated with nerve growth factor had more complete sympathetic innervation, faster heart rates, and higher levels of the 41-kDa protein than the placebo group. Electrophysiological studies were performed on isolated ventricular septa superfused with Tyrode's solution at 37.0° - 37.5°C. The electrophysiological response of septa to 10 -9 and 10 -8 M phenylephrine from the 10-11-day-old nerve growth factor group was comparable with that of 3-week-old control animals. In contrast, 10-11-day-old antiserum-treated rats had an abnormal innervation pattern, lower levels of the 41-kDa protein, and a more immature electrophysiological response to α-adrenergic stimulation that the placebo group. In addition, antiserum-treated rats had an abnormally prolonged electrocardiographic QT interval. Our results demonstrate for the first time in intact animals a direct link betweensympathetic innervation and α-adrenergic receptor-effector coupling as well as the dependence of innervation of the modulation of impulse initiation by α-agonists. This sequence of developmental events may be important not only in the regulation of normal cardiac rhythm but also in the expression of certain pathological entities such as the congenital long QT syndrome and the sudden infant death syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-437
Number of pages11
JournalCirculation Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • α -Adrenergic receptor-effector coupling
  • α -Adrenergic responsiveness
  • Electrocardiogram
  • GTP regulatory proteins
  • Ventricular automaticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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