Ghrelin protects against cobalt chloride-induced hypoxic injury in cardiac H9c2 cells by inhibiting oxidative stress and inducing autophagy

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Ghrelin is a multifunctional peptide that actively protects against cardiovascular ischemic diseases, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We used CoCl2 to mimic hypoxic conditions in cardiac H9c2 cells in order to study the mechanism by which ghrelin protects cardiac myocytes against hypoxic injury by regulating the content of intracellular ROS and autophagy levels. Cell apoptosis and necrosis were evaluated by the flow cytometry assay, Hoechst staining, and LDH activity. Cell viability was detected by the WST-1 assay; ROS levels were assessed using DCFH2-DA; and Nox1, catalase and Mn-SOD were assayed by real-time PCR and activity assays. LC3II was measured by Western blot analysis. We observed that CoCl2 induced apoptosis and death of H9c2 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. This was characterized by an increase in cell apoptosis, LDH activity, ROS content, Nox1 expression, and autophagy levels and a decrease in cell viability, catalase, and Mn-SOD activities. Ghrelin treatment significantly attenuated CoCl2-induced hypoxic injury by decreasing cell apoptosis, LDH activity, ROS content, and Nox1 expression and increasing cell viability, autophagy levels, catalase, and Mn-SOD mRNA levels and activities. Further experiments revealed that inhibiting autophagy using 3-MA or AMPK pathway with compound C almost abrogated the induction of ghrelin in autophagy. This was associated with a decrease in cell viability and an increase in LDH activity. Our results indicate that ghrelin protected cardiac myocytes against CoCl2-induced hypoxic injury by decreasing Nox1 expression, increasing the expression and activity of endogenous antioxidant enzymes, and inducing protective autophagy in an AMPK-dependent manner.

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