Activation of Autophagic Flux Blunts Cardiac Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury

Min Xie, Geoffrey W. Cho, Yongli Kong, Dan L. Li, Francisco Altamirano, Xiang Luo, Cyndi R. Morales, Nan Jiang, Gabriele G. Schiattarella, Herman I. May, Jessica Medina, John M. Shelton, Anwarul Ferdous, Thomas G. Gillette, Joseph A. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Rationale: Reperfusion injury accounts for up to half of myocardial infarct size, and meaningful clinical therapies targeting it do not exist. We have reported previously that autophagy is reduced during reperfusion and that HDAC (histone deacetylase) inhibition enhances cardiomyocyte autophagy and blunts ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury when administered at the time of reperfusion. However, whether inducing autophagy per se, as opposed to other effects triggered by HDAC inhibition, is sufficient to protect against reperfusion injury is not clear. Objective: We set out to test whether augmentation of autophagy using a specific autophagy-inducing peptide, TB (Tat-Beclin), protects the myocardium through reduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during reperfusion injury. Methods and Results: Eight- to 12-week-old, WT (wild type) C57BL6 mice and tamoxifen-inducible cardiomyocyte-specific ATG7 KO (ATG7 knockout) mice (to test the dependency on autophagy) were randomized into 2 groups: exposed to a control TS (Tat-scrambled) peptide or a TB peptide. Each group was subjected to I/R surgery (45-minute coronary ligation, 24-hour reperfusion). Infarct size, systolic function, autophagic flux, and ROS were assayed. Cultured neonatal rat ventricular myocytes were exposed to TB during simulated I/R injury. ATG7 knockdown by small interfering RNA in neonatal rat ventricular myocytes was used to evaluate the role of autophagy. TB treatment at reperfusion reduced infarct size by 20% (absolute reduction; 50% relative reduction) and improved contractile function. Improvement correlated with increased autophagic flux in the border zone with less oxidative stress. ATG7 KO mice did not manifest TB-promoted cardioprotection during I/R. In neonatal rat ventricular myocytes subjected to I/R, TB reduced cell death by 41% and reduced I/R-induced ROS generation. Conversely, ATG7 knockdown in neonatal rat ventricular myocytes abolished these beneficial effects of TB on cell death and ROS reduction. Conclusions: Induction of autophagy at the time of reperfusion is sufficient to mitigate myocardial reperfusion injury by reducing ROS and cell death. Maintenance of appropriate autophagic flux may emerge as a viable clinical therapy to reduce reperfusion injury in acute myocardial infarction. Graphic Abstract: A graphic abstract is available for this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-450
Number of pages16
JournalCirculation Research
Issue number3
Early online dateJun 11 2021
StatePublished - Jul 23 2021


  • autophagy
  • cardiomyopathies
  • histone deacetylases
  • ischemia
  • reperfusion
  • Myocardial Contraction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species/metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Recombinant Proteins/pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Myocytes, Cardiac/drug effects
  • Rats
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury/drug therapy
  • Autophagy
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Animals
  • Beclin-1/pharmacology
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7/genetics
  • Mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology


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