Background: The anesthetic noble gas, xenon, produces cardioprotection. We hypothesized that other noble gases without anesthetic properties [helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar)] also produce cardioprotection, and further hypothesized that this beneficial effect is mediated by activation of prosurvival signaling kinases [including phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and 70-kDa ribosomal protein s6 kinase] and inhibition of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening in vivo.
Methods: Rabbits (n = 98) instrumented for hemodynamic measurement and subjected to a 30-min left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) occlusion and 3 h reperfusion received 0.9% saline (control), three cycles of 70% He-, Ne-, or Ar-30% O2 administered for 5 min interspersed with 5 min of 70% N2-30% O2 before LAD occlusion, or three cycles of brief (5 min) ischemia interspersed with 5 min reperfusion before prolonged LAD occlusion and reperfusion (ischemic preconditioning). Additional groups of rabbits received selective inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (wortmannin; 0.6 mg/kg), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (PD 098059; 2 mg/kg), or 70-kDa ribosomal protein s6 kinase (rapamycin; 0.25 mg/kg) or mPTP opener atractyloside (5 mg/kg) in the absence or presence of He pretreatment.
Results: He, Ne, Ar, and ischemic preconditioning significantly (P < 0.05) reduced myocardial infarct size [23% +/- 4%, 20% +/- 3%, 22% +/- 2%, 17% +/- 3% of the left ventricular area at risk (mean +/- sd); triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining] versus control (45% +/- 5%). Wortmannin, PD 098059, rapamycin, and atractyloside alone did not affect infarct size, but these drugs abolished He-induced cardioprotection.
Conclusions: The results indicate that noble gases without anesthetic properties produce cardioprotection by activating prosurvival signaling kinases and inhibiting mPTP opening in rabbits.