Cocaine induces cytoskeletal changes in cardiac myocytes : implications for cardiac morphology

Verma, Avnish, Orme Merve, Ayse, Remeskevicius, Vytautas, Sobiecka, Pola, Taylor, Luke, Lawton, Scott, Jones, Ben P., Polycarpou, Elena, Bennett, Jason and Rooney, Brian (2021) Cocaine induces cytoskeletal changes in cardiac myocytes : implications for cardiac morphology. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(5), p. 2263. ISSN (print) 1661-6596


Cocaine is one of the most widely abused illicit drugs worldwide and has long been recognised as an agent of cardiac dysfunction in numerous cases of drug overdose. Cocaine has previously been shown to up-regulate cytoskeletal rearrangements and morphological changes in numerous tissues; however, previous literature observes such changes primarily in clinical case reports and addiction studies. An investigation into the fundamental cytoskeletal parameters of migration, adhesion and proliferation were studied to determine the cytoskeletal and cytotoxic basis of cocaine in cardiac cells. Treatment of cardiac myocytes with cocaine increased cell migration and adhesion (p 0.05), with no effect on cell proliferation, except with higher doses eliciting (1–10 μg/mL) its diminution and increase in cell death. Cocaine downregulated phosphorylation of cofilin, decreased expression of adhesion modulators (integrin-β3) and increased expression of ezirin within three hours of 1 μg/mL treatments. These functional responses were associated with changes in cellular morphology, including alterations in membrane stability and a stellate-like phenotype with less compaction between cells. Higher dose treatments of cocaine (5–10 μg/mL) were associated with significant cardiomyocyte cell death (p 0.05) and loss of cellular architecture. These results highlight the importance of cocaine in mediating cardiomyocyte function and cytotoxicity associated with the possible loss of intercellular contacts required to maintain normal cell viability, with implications for cardiotoxicity relating to hypertrophy and fibrogenesis.

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