A preliminary experimental study on the cardiac toxicity of glutamate and the role of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor in rats

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Monosodium L-glutamate (MSG) is a food flavour enhancer and its potential harmfulness to the heart remains controversial. We investigated whether MSG could induce cardiac arrhythmias and apoptosis via the α-amino-3-hydro×y-5-methyl-4-iso×azolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor.


Myocardial infarction (MI) was created by ligating the coronary artery and ventricular arrhythmias were monitored by electrocardiogram in the rat in vivo. Neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were isolated and cultured. Cell viability was estimated by 3-(4,5)-dimethylthiahiazo(-z-yl)-3,5-di-phenytetrazoliumromide (MTT) assay. Calcium mobilization was monitored by confocal microscopy. Cardiomyocyte apoptosis was evaluated by acridine orange staining, flow cytometry, DNA laddering, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blotting.


MSG (i.v.) decreased the heart rate at 0.5 g/kg and serious bradycardia at 1.5 g/kg, but could not induce ventricular tachyarrhythmias in normal rats in vivo. In rats with acute MI in vivo, however, MSG (1.5 g/kg, i.v.) induced ventricular tachyarrhythmias and these arrhythmias could be prevented by blocking the AMPA and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Selectively activating the AMPA or NMDA receptor induced ventricular tachyarrhythmias in MI rats. At the cellular level, AMPA induced calcium mobilization, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in cultured cardiomyocytes, especially when the AMPA receptor desensitization were blocked by cyclothiazide. The above toxic cellular effects of AMPA were abolished by AMPA receptor blockade or by H2O2 scavengers.


MSG induces bradycardia in normal rats, but triggers lethal tachyarrhythmias in myocardial infarcted rats probably by hindering AMPA receptors. AMPA receptor overstimulation also induces cardiomyocyte apoptosis, which may facilitate arrhythmia.

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