Autophagy is important in cells for removing damaged organelles, such as mitochondria. Insufficient autophagy plays a critical role in tissue injury and organ dysfunction under a variety of pathological conditions. However, the role of autophagy in nonlethal traumatic cardiac damage remains unclear. The aims of the present study were to investigate whether nonlethal mechanical trauma may result in the change of cardiomyocyte autophagy, and if so, to determine whether the changed myocardial autophagy may contribute to delayed cardiac dysfunction. Male adult rats were subjected to nonlethal traumatic injury, and cardiomyocyte autophagy, cardiac mitochondrial function, and cardiac function in isolated perfused hearts were detected. Direct mechanical traumatic injury was not observed in the heart within 24 h after trauma. However, cardiomyocyte autophagy gradually decreased and reached a minimal level 6 h after trauma. Cardiac mitochondrial dysfunction was observed by cardiac radionuclide imaging 6 h after trauma, and cardiac dysfunction was observed 24 h after trauma in the isolated perfused heart. These were reversed when autophagy was induced by administration of the autophagy inducer rapamycin 30 min before trauma. Our present study demonstrated for the first time that nonlethal traumatic injury caused decreased autophagy, and decreased autophagy may contribute to post-traumatic organ dysfunction. Though our study has some limitations, it strongly suggests that cardiac damage induced by nonlethal mechanical trauma can be detected by noninvasive radionuclide imaging, and induction of autophagy may be a novel strategy for reducing posttrauma multiple organ failure.
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