Chronic Electrical Neuronal Stimulation Increases Cardiac Parasympathetic Tone by Eliciting Neurotrophic Effects
Rationale: Recently, we provided a technique of chronic high-frequency electric stimulation (HFES) of the right inferior ganglionated plexus for ventricular rate control during atrial fibrillation in dogs and humans. In these experiments, we observed a decrease of the intrinsic ventricular rate during the first 4 to 5 months when HFES was intermittently shut off.
Objective: We thus hypothesized that HFES might elicit trophic effects on cardiac neurons, which in turn increase baseline parasympathetic tone of the atrioventricular node.
Methods and Results: In mongrel dogs atrial fibrillation was induced by rapid atrial pacing. Endocardial HFES of the right inferior ganglionated plexus, which contains abundant fibers to the atrioventricular node, was performed for 2 years. Sham-operated nonstimulated dogs served as control. In chronic neurostimulated dogs, we found an increased neuronal cell size accompanied by an increase of choline acetyltransferase and unchanged tyrosine hydroxylase protein expression as compared with unstimulated dogs. Moreover, β-nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin (NT)-3 were upregulated in chronically neurostimulated dogs. In vitro, HFES of cultured neurons of interatrial ganglionated plexus from adult rats increased neuronal growth accompanied by upregulation of NGF, NT-3, glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), glial-derived neurotrophic factor, and glial-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression. NGF was identified as the main growth-inducing factor, whereas NT-3 did not affect HFES-induced growth. However, NT-3 could be identified as an important acetylcholine-upregulating factor.
Conclusions: HFES of cardiac neurons in vivo and in vitro causes neuronal cellular hypertrophy, which is mediated by NGF and boosters cellular function by NT-3–mediated acetylcholine upregulation. This knowledge may contribute to develop HFES techniques to augment cardiac parasympathetic tone.
- Received October 13, 2010.
- Revision received March 11, 2011.
- Accepted March 17, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.