Fallavollita, J. A., H. Lim and J. M. Canty, Jr. Myocyte apoptosis and reduced SR gene expression precede the transition from chronically stunned to hibernating myocardium. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 33:1937-44., 2001.

A systematic transition from chronic stunning to hibernation occurs as coronary flow reserve decreases to a critical level. Hibernating myocardium exhibits apoptosis-induced myocyte loss and a reduction in the expression of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ ATPase but whether similar cellular changes occur in chronic stunning is unknown. Pigs with a chronic left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) stenosis were studied one (n=9) or two (n=10) months after instrumentation. Anterior hypokinesis with normal levels of resting perfusion developed at each time-point, consistent with chronic stunning. After 1 month, sub-endocardial flow reserve was moderately reduced (adenosine/rest, LAD: 3.60+/-0.91 v Remote: 6.00+/-0.54, P<0.01) with no regional differences in SR protein expression, no increase in apoptosis (32+/-6 v 21+/-5 nuclei/10(6) myocyte nuclei, p- ns) and no regional myocyte loss (1976+/-44 v 1955+/-30 nuclei/mm2, p- ns). After 2 months, sub-endocardial flow reserve in chronically stunned myocardium was severely impaired (LAD: 1.41+/-0.21 v Remote: 5.59+/-0.96, P<0.01). There were small but significant reductions in LAD mRNA and protein levels for the SRCa2+ ATPase and phospholamban whereas calsequestrin was unchanged. In addition, regional myocyte apoptosis increased (127+/-24 v 55+/-9 nuclei/10(6) myocyte nuclei, P<0.01), resulting in the onset of myocyte loss (1293+/-50 v 1394+/-32 nuclei/mm2, P<0.01). Apoptosis-induced myocyte loss and reductions in SR protein expression are not invariably present in viable chronically dysfunctional myocardium. They are induced as the propensity of a region to develop reversible ischemia increases (as reflected by coronary flow reserve). The temporal progression indicates that alterations in SR protein expression and myocyte apoptosis precede the transition from chronically stunned to hibernating myocardium.