Background: Hypoxia/reoxygenation(H/R)-induced apoptosis of cardiomyocytes plays an important role in myocardial injury. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant carotenoid that has been shown to have protective properties on cardiovascular system. The aim of the present study is to investigate the potential for lycopene to protect the cardiomyocytes exposed to H/R. Moreover, the effect on mitochondrial function upon lycopene exposure was assessed.
Methods and findings: Primary cardiomyocytes were isolated from neonatal mouse and established an in vitro model of H/R which resembles ischemia/reperfusion in vivo. The pretreatment of cardiomyocytes with 5 µM lycopene significantly reduced the extent of apoptosis detected by TUNEL assays. To further study the mechanism underlying the benefits of lycopene, interactions between lycopene and the process of mitochondria-mediated apoptosis were examined. Lycopene pretreatment of cardiomyocytes suppressed the activation of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) by reducing the intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and inhibiting the increase of malondialdehyde (MDA) levels caused by H/R. Moreover, the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, a decline in cellular ATP levels, a reduction in the amount of cytochrome c translocated to the cytoplasm and caspase-3 activation were observed in lycopene-treated cultures.
Conclusion: The present results suggested that lycopene possesses great pharmacological potential in protecting against H/R-induced apoptosis. Importantly, the protective effects of lycopene may be attributed to its roles in improving mitochondrial function in H/R-treated cardiomyocytes.