Toll-like receptor 4 mediates ischemia/reperfusion injury of the heart

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2004 Aug;128(2):170-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2003.11.036.


Background: Restoration of blood flow to the ischemic heart may paradoxically exacerbate tissue injury (ischemia/reperfusion injury). Toll-like receptor 4, expressed on several cell types, including cardiomyocytes, is a mediator of the host inflammatory response to infection. Because ischemia/reperfusion injury is characterized by an acute inflammatory reaction, we investigated toll-like receptor 4 activation in a murine model of regional myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. We used C3H/HeJ mice, which express a nonfunctional toll-like receptor 4, to assess the pertinence of this receptor to tissue injury after reperfusion of ischemic myocardium.

Methods: Wild-type mice (C3H/HeN) or toll-like receptor 4 mutant mice (C3H/HeJ) were subjected to 60 minutes of regional myocardial ischemia followed by 2 hours of reperfusion. At the end of reperfusion, the area at risk and the myocardial infarct size were measured as the end point of myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. Myocardial mitogen-activated protein kinase activation was measured by Western blotting, and nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappaB and activator protein-1 was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Ischemia/reperfusion-injured myocardium was also assessed by ribonuclease protection assay for expression of inflammatory mediators (tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1beta, monocyte chemotactic factor-1, and interleukin-6).

Results: The area at risk was similar for all groups after myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. There was a 40% reduction in infarct size (as a percentage of the area at risk) in C3H/HeJ mice compared with C3H/HeN mice (P =.001). Within the myocardium, significant activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase, p38, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase was observed in both strains after ischemia and during reperfusion as compared with an absence of mitogen-activated protein kinase activation during sham operations; however, c-Jun N-terminal kinase activity, but not p38 or extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity, was significantly reduced in C3H/HeJ mice (P <.05). In both groups, nuclear factor-kappaB and activator protein-1 nuclear translocation occurred in the myocardium during myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury, but, by densitometric analysis, nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappaB and activator protein-1 was significantly decreased in C3H/HeJ mice compared with C3H/HeN mice. Interleukin-1beta, monocyte chemotactic factor-1, and interleukin-6 were detectable in reperfused ischemic myocardium but were not detected in sham-operated myocardium; the expression of each of these mediators was significantly decreased in the myocardial tissue of C3H/HeJ mice when compared with expression in the control C3H/HeN mouse strain.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that toll-like receptor 4 may mediate, at least in part, myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. Inhibition of toll-like receptor 4 activation may be a potential therapeutic target to attenuate ischemia/reperfusion-induced tissue damage in the clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / etiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Toll-Like Receptors


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases