Objective: Previous studies have questioned whether there is an improved cardiac function after high-altitude training. Accordingly, the present study was designed specifically to test whether this apparent blunted response of the whole heart to training can be accounted for by altered mechanical properties at the cellular level. Methods: Adult rats were trained for 5 weeks under normoxic (N, NT for sedentary and trained animals, respectively) or hypobaric hypoxic (H, HT) conditions. Cardiac morphology and function were evaluated by echocardiography. Calcium Ca2+ sensitivity of the contractile machinery was estimated in skinned cardiomyocytes isolated from the left ventricular (LV) sub-epicardium (Epi) and sub-endocardium (Endo) at short and long sarcomere lengths (SL). Results: Cardiac remodelling was harmonious (increase in wall thickness with chamber dilatation) in NT rats and disharmonious (hypertrophy without chamber dilatation) in HT rats. Contrary to NT rats, HT rats did not exhibit enhancement in global cardiac performance evaluated by echocardiography. Stretch- dependent Ca2+ sensitization of the myofilaments (cellular index of the Frank-Starling mechanism) increased from Epi to Endo in N rats. Training in normoxic conditions further increased this stretch-dependent Ca2+ sensitization. Chronic hypoxia did not significantly affect myofibrilar Ca2+ sensitivity. In contrast, high-altitude training decreased Ca2+ sensitivity of the myofilaments at both SL, mostly in Endo cells, resulting in a loss of the transmural gradient of the stretch-dependent Ca2+ sensitization. Expression of myosin heavy chain isoforms was affected both by training and chronic hypoxia but did not correlate with mechanical data. Conclusions: Training at sea level increased the transmural gradient of stretch-dependent Ca2+ sensitization of the myofilaments, accounting for an improved Frank-Starling mechanism. High-altitude training depressed myofilament response to Ca2+, especially in the Endo layer. This led to a reduction in this transmural gradient that may contribute to the lack of improvement in LV function via the Frank-Starling mechanism.
- Contractile function
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine