Protective effect of melatonin on Ca2+ homeostasis and contractility in acute cholecystitis

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Impaired Ca2+ homeostasis and smooth muscle contractility co-exist in acute cholecystitis (AC) leading to gallbladder dysfunction. There is no pharmacological treatment for this pathological condition. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of melatonin treatment on Ca2+ signaling pathways and contractility altered by cholecystitis. [Ca2+]i was determined by epifluorescence microscopy in fura-2 loaded isolated gallbladder smooth muscle cells, and isometric tension was recorded from gallbladder muscle strips. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and reduced glutathione (GSH) contents were determined by spectrophotometry and cycloxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression was quantified by western blot. Melatonin was tested in two experimental groups, one of which underwent common bile duct ligation for 2 days and another that was later de-ligated for 2 days. Inflammation-induced impairment of Ca2+ responses to cholecystokinin and caffeine were recovered by melatonin treatment (30 mg/kg). This treatment also ameliorated the detrimental effects of AC on Ca2+ influx through both L-type and capacitative Ca2+ channels, and it was effective in preserving the pharmacological phenotype of these channels. Despite its effects on Ca2+ homeostasis, melatonin did not improve contractility. After de-ligation, Ca2+ influx and contractility were still impaired, but both were recovered by melatonin. These effects of melatonin were associated to a reduction of MDA levels, an increase in GSH content and a decrease in COX-2 expression. These findings indicate that melatonin restores Ca2+ homeostasis during AC and resolves inflammation. In addition, this indoleamine helps in the subsequent recovery of functionality.

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