Infarction alters both the distribution and noradrenergic properties of cardiac sympathetic neurons

Wei Li, David Knowlton, Donna M. Van Winkle, Beth A. Habecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Regional changes occur in the sympathetic innervation of the heart after myocardial infarction (MI), including loss of norepinephrine (NE) uptake and depletion of neuronal NE. This apparent denervation is accompanied by increased cardiac NE spillover. One potential explanation for these apparently contradictory findings is that the sympathetic neurons innervating the heart are exposed to environmental stimuli that alter neuronal function. To understand the changes that occur in the innervation of the heart after MI, immunohistochemical, biochemical, and molecular analyses were carried out in the heart and stellate ganglia of control and MI rats. Immunohistochemistry with panneuronal markers revealed extensive denervation in the left ventricle (LV) below the infarct, but sympathetic nerve fibers were retained in the base of the heart. Western blot analysis revealed that tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression (normalized to a panneuronal marker) was increased significantly in the base of the heart and in the stellate ganglia but decreased in the LV below the MI. NE transporter (NET) binding sites, normalized to total protein, were unchanged, except in the LV, where [3H]nisoxetine binding was decreased. TH mRNA was increased significantly in the left and right stellate ganglia after MI, while NET mRNA was not. In the base of the heart, increased TH coupled with no change in NET may explain the increase in extracellular NE observed after MI. Coupled with substantial denervation in the LV, these changes likely contribute to the onset of cardiac arrhythmias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H2229-H2236
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6 55-6
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Myocardial infarction
  • Norepinephrine transporter
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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