Research focus recently shifted to mitochondrial dynamics and the role of fusion and fission in cardioprotection. The aim of this study was to evaluate (i) the function and dynamics of mitochondria isolated from hearts exposed to ischaemia/reperfusion (I/R) (ii) the effects of melatonin, a powerful cardioprotectant, on mitochondrial dynamics in I/R.
Isolated perfused rat hearts were stabilized for 30 min, subjected to 20 min global ischaemia, followed by 30 min reperfusion. Tissue was collected, mitochondria isolated for measurement of mitochondrial oxidative function and lysates from mitochondrial and cytosolic fractions prepared for western blotting. Melatonin (0.3 or 50 μM) was administered for 10 min immediately before the onset of ischaemia and for 10 min at the onset of reperfusion. Infarct size was assessed after 35 min regional ischaemia/60 min reperfusion using triphenyltetrazolium staining. The results show that reperfusion significantly reduced mitochondrial QO2 (states 3 and 4), with minor effects by melatonin. Cytosolic Beclin 1 and the LC3 II/I ratio were reduced by ischaemia and increased by reperfusion. Both ischaemia and reperfusion reduced mitochondrial PINK1 and Parkin levels, while reperfusion increased p62.
An alternative mitophagy pathway mediated by Rab9 is activated during myocardial ischaemia/reperfusion. Ischaemia reduced and reperfusion increased cytosolic ULK1 expression, associated with redistribution of Rab9 and Drp1 between the cytosol and mitochondria. Melatonin significantly reduced mitochondrial p62 expression upon reperfusion. Throughout the protocol, melatonin significantly (i) increased cytosolic total (t) and phospho (p) ULK1, and Rab9 levels (ii) increased the cytosolic and reduced the mitochondrial pDrp1 levels and p/t Drp1 ratio, suggesting inhibition of mitochondrial fission. Fusion was affected to a lesser extent. Cardioprotection by melatonin is associated with substantial effects on mitophagy, the significance thereof remains to be established.