Hibernating animals show resistance to hypothermia-induced cardiac arrhythmias. However, it is not clear whether and how mammalian hibernators are resistant to ischemia-induced arrhythmias. The goal of this investigation was to determine the susceptibility of woodchucks (Marmota monax) to arrhythmias and their mechanisms after coronary artery occlusion at the same room temperature in both winter, the time for hibernation, and summer, when they do not hibernate. By monitoring telemetric electrocardiograms, we found significantly higher arrhythmia scores, calculated as the severity of arrhythmias, with incidence of ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and thus sudden cardiac death (SCD) in woodchucks in summer than they had in winter. The level of catalase expression in woodchuck hearts was significantly higher, whereas the level of oxidized Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) was lower in winter than it was in summer. Ventricular myocytes isolated from woodchucks in winter were more resistant to H2O2-induced early afterdepolarizations (EADs) compared with myocytes isolated from woodchucks in summer. The EADs were eliminated by inhibiting CaMKII (with KN-93), L-type Ca current (with nifedipine), or late Na+ current (with ranolazine). In woodchucks, in the summer, the arrhythmia score was significantly reduced by overexpression of catalase (via adenoviral vectors) or the inhibition of CaMKII (with KN-93) in the heart. This study suggests that the heart of the mammalian hibernator is more resistant to ischemia-induced arrhythmias and SCD in winter. Increased antioxidative capacity and reduced CaMKII activity may confer resistance in woodchuck hearts against EADs and arrhythmias during winter. The profound protection conferred by catalase overexpression or CaMKII inhibition in this novel natural animal model may provide insights into clinical directions for therapy of arrhythmias.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Hibernating animals
- Oxidative stress
- Triggered activity