The role of cholinergic pathways in modulating left ventricular contractile function in humans is not known. This study evaluated the effect of a cholinergic agonist (acetylcholine) and antagonist (atropine) on basal and β-adrenergically stimulated left ventricular contractile function in normal subjects and subjects with denervated hearts after cardiac transplantation.Methods and Results
Six subjects with normal left ventricular function and seven subjects who were 1 to 3 years after cardiac transplantation were studied. Acetylcholine, atropine, and the β-adrenergic agonist dobutamine were infused via the left main coronary artery, and changes in left ventricular contractile function were assessed by measurement of peak +dP/dt. Intracoronary dobutamine increased +dP/dt by 70±15% and 66±20% in the normal subjects and transplant recipients, respectively. Intracoronary acetylcholine and atropine alone each had no effect on left ventricular +dP/dt in either normal subjects or transplant recipients. The concurrent infusion of acetylcholine with dobutamine reduced the response to dobutamine by 66±10% and 79±9% in normal subjects and transplant recipients, respectively. The concurrent infusion of atropine with dobutamine potentiated the response to dobutamine by 25±7% in normal subjects but had no effect in transplant recipients.Conclusions
Stimulation and inhibition of cholinergic receptors in the human heart can modulate the positive inotropic response to β-adrenergic stimulation.