Sex differences in L-type calcium current after chronic ethanol consumption in rats

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Chronic ethanol consumption elicits a progressive cardiac contractile dysfunction, and studies in rats suggest that this alcoholic heart muscle disease is more pronounced in males than females. Cellular changes associated with the ethanol-induced cardiotoxicity remain largely undefined; however, it is possible that L-type Ca2+ channel current (ICa,L) is affected. Using whole-cell patch-clamp techniques, this study examined ICa,L in adult ventricular myocytes isolated from male and female P-rats that had consumed drinking water (controls) or a 25% ethanol/water mixture for 14 months. The peak amplitude and maximum conductance of ICa,L were 32 and 26% greater, respectively, in cardiomyocytes isolated from ethanol-consuming compared to control male rats. In contrast, no differences in the amplitude or conductance of ICa,L were observed when comparing myocytes isolated from control and ethanol-consuming females. Ethanol treatment had no significant effects on the kinetics ICa,L inactivation or on steady-state activation and inactivation in either gender. In conclusion, male but not female cardiomyocytes respond to chronic ethanol consumption with an increased ICa,L that may represent a compensatory response to the depressed contractility.

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