Morphologic aspects of rodent cardiotoxicity in a retrospective evaluation of National Toxicology Program studies

Toxicol Pathol. 2011 Aug;39(5):850-60. doi: 10.1177/0192623311413788. Epub 2011 Jul 11.


The heart is increasingly recognized as a target for toxicity. As studies in laboratory rodents are commonly used to investigate the potential toxicity of various agents, the identification and characterization of lesions of cardiotoxicity is of utmost importance. Although morphologic criteria have been established for degenerative myocardial lesions in rats and mice, differentiation of spontaneously occurring lesions from toxin-induced or toxin-related lesions remains difficult. A retrospective light microscopic evaluation was performed on the hearts of F344 rats and B6C3F(1) mice from National Toxicology Program (NTP) studies of six chemicals identified in the NTP database in which treatment-induced myocardial toxicity was present. Two previously defined myocardial lesions were observed: "cardiomyopathy" that occurred spontaneously or as a treatment-related effect and "myocardial degeneration" that occurred as a treatment-related effect. Both lesions consisted of the same basic elements, beginning with myofiber degeneration and necrosis, with varying amounts of inflammation, interstitial cell proliferation, and eventual fibrosis. This observation is indicative of the heart's limited repertoire of responses to myocardial injury, regardless of the nature of the inciting agent. A prominent differentiating factor between spontaneous and treatment-induced lesions was distribution and lesion onset. Once the respective lesions had undergone fibrosis, however, they generally appeared morphologically indistinguishable.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research
  • Cardiomyopathies / chemically induced*
  • Cardiomyopathies / metabolism
  • Cardiomyopathies / pathology
  • Cardiotoxins / toxicity*
  • Government Programs
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / pathology
  • Oxymetholone / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*
  • Toxicity Tests / standards
  • United States
  • United States Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • Urethane / toxicity
  • Vacuoles / drug effects


  • Cardiotoxins
  • Urethane
  • Oxymetholone