Contractile reserve decreases with advancing age and chronic isoproterenol (ISO) administration is a well-characterized model of cardiac hypertrophy known to impair cardiovascular function. This study evaluated whether nonsenescent, mature adult rats are more susceptible to detrimental effects of chronic ISO administration than younger adult rats. Rats received daily injections of ISO (0.1 mg/kg sc) or vehicle for 3 wk. ISO induced a greater impairment in contractile reserve [maximum of left ventricular pressure development (Δ+dP/dt(max))] in mature adult ISO-treated (MA-ISO) than in young adult ISO-treated rats (YA-ISO) in response to infusions of mechanistically distinct inotropes (digoxin, milrinone; 20-200 μl·kg(-1)·min(-1)), while basal and agonist-induced changes in heart rate and systolic arterial pressure (SAP) were not different across groups. ISO decreased expression of the calcium handling protein, sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase-2a, in MA-ISO compared with YA, YA-ISO, and MA rats. Chronic ISO also induced greater increases in cardiac hypertrophy [left ventricular (LV) index: 33 ± 3 vs. 22 ± 5%] and caspase-3 activity (34 vs. 5%) in MA-ISO relative to YA-ISO rats. Moreover, β-myosin heavy chain (β-MHC) and atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) mRNA expression was significantly elevated in MA-ISO. These results demonstrate that adult rats develop greater impairments in systolic performance than younger rats when exposed to chronic catecholamine excess. Reduced contractile reserve may result from calcium dysregulation, increased caspase-3 activity, or increased β-MHC and ANF expression. Although several studies report age-related declines in systolic performance in older and senescent animals, the present study demonstrates that catecholamine excess induces reductions in systolic performance significantly earlier in life.
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