Activation of apoptotic and inflammatory pathways in dysfunctional donor hearts

Emma J. Birks, Magdi H. Yacoub, Paul S.J. Burton, Virginia Owen, Ariela Pomerance, Angela O'Halloran, Nicholas R. Banner, Asghar Khaghani, Najma Latif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background. Myocardial dysfunction is common after brain death, but the mechanisms remain unclear. Apoptosis is tightly regulated by enzymes termed the caspases. We have investigated the caspases involved in the terminal part of the apoptotic pathway in dysfunctional (nontransplanted) donor hearts and their relation to inflammatory markers and compared them to hearts with good ventricular function (transplanted donors). Methods. Thirty-one donor hearts assessed for transplantation were examined. Western blotting was used to measure pro-caspase-9, caspase-3, DFF45, the activated nuclease CPAN and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, a DNA repair enzyme inactivated by caspase-3. Caspase-3 activity was also measured. Histologic and immunocytochemical analysis for HLA Class II and Real Time polymerase chain reaction for tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin 6 were performed to detect inflammatory activation. Results. Cleaved caspase-9 was higher (5.53±0.6 vs. 3.64±0.4 O.D. units, P<0.01) in nontransplanted compared with transplanted donors and there was a trend for higher pro-caspase-9 (5.20±1.0 vs. 4.22±0.4 O.D. units, P=NS). Levels of pro-caspase-3 were higher in nontransplanted (9.66±0.5 vs. 5.15±0.5 O.D. units, P<0.00001) donors and cleavage products of caspase-3 were elevated in 14 of 14 nontransplanted and 2 of 17 transplanted donors. Intact DFF-45 (8.94±0.36 vs. 6.14±0.30 O.D. units, P<0.000005), its spliced product (2.38±0.35 vs. 0.4±0.21 O.D. units, P=0.0001) and the nuclease caspase-activated nuclease (2.01±0.3 vs. 0.66±0.16 OD units, P=0.001) were higher in nontransplanted donors. The caspase-3 substrate poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase was higher in nontransplanted (1.16±0.13 vs. 0.61±0.22 O.D. units, P=0.57) donors. Conclusions. The caspases are elevated in dysfunctional donor hearts compared with hearts with good ventricular function with a possible link to inflammatory activation supporting the concept that brain death causes inflammatory activation which can lead to apoptosis with a possible important effect on function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1498-1506
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 27 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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