Vagal stimulation, through its nicotinic action, limits infarct size and the inflammatory response to myocardial Ischemia and reperfusion

Laura Calvillo, Emilio Vanoli, Elisa Andreoli, Alessandra Besana, Elisabetta Omodeo, Massimiliano Gnecchi, Pietro Zerbi, Gianluca Vago, Giuseppe Busca, Peter J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Vagal activity has protective effects in ischemic heart disease. We tested whether vagal stimulation (VS) could modulate the inflammatory reaction, a major determinant of cardiac injury after ischemia/reperfusion. Four groups of male rats underwent myocardial ischemia (30 minutes) and reperfusion (24 hours). One group underwent VS (40 minutes), 1 VS plus atrial pacing (VS + Pacing), and 1 VS plus nicotinic inhibition by mecamylamine (VS + MEC). After 24 hours, the area at risk, infarct size, inflammation parameters, and apoptosis were quantified. Infarct size was reduced in all VS-treated rats (controls, 53 ± 18%; VS, 6.5 ± 3%; VS + Pacing, 23 ± 6%; VS + MEC, 33 ± 9%; P <0.005 vs. controls). The infarct size in the VS + MEC group was larger than that in VS-treated animals, despite similar heart rate, suggesting partial loss of protection. The number of macrophages, neutrophils, and apoptotic cells in the area at risk and the plasma cytokines levels were significantly reduced in all VS-treated animals. In conclusion, VS decreases infarct size and inflammatory markers during ischemia/reperfusion independent of the heart rate. The anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic properties of the nicotinic pathway are the primary underlying mechanism. The vagally mediated modulation of inflammatory responses may prove valuable in the clinical management of acute coronary syndromes and of heart failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-507
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011



  • autonomic nervous system
  • infarct size
  • inflammatory markers
  • ischemia/reperfusion
  • myocardial infarction
  • vagal activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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