During ischemia and reperfusion, increased palmitate oxidation is associated with diminished function of the myocardium. Palmitate, but not oleate, has been implicated in the induction of apoptosis in isolated neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. We report that extended incubation (20 h) of cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes, in the presence of palmitate, causes a decrease in the ability of these cells to oxidize fatty acids, an increase in cellular malonyl-CoA and a decrease in the activity of 5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) compared to myocytes incubated in the presence of oleate. While palmitate decreases the oxidative metabolism of fatty acids, it increases the formation of intracellular triglyceride and ceramide. Increased ceramide formation is associated with an increase in apoptosis in many cell systems and we also observe an increase in caspase-3 like activity and DNA-laddering in these cells. At the onset of cardiac failure, a switch in myocardial substrate utilization from fatty acids to glucose occurs. Our data suggest that decreased palmitate oxidation in cardiac myocytes in culture may signal the initiation of programmed cell death and ceramide elevation previously documented in ischemic, reperfused hearts.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.