Research Article| Volume 216, P46-50, January 2019

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Cardiac chronotropic hypo-responsiveness and atrial fibrosis in rats chronically treated with lithium

Published:September 07, 2018DOI:


      • Prolonged lithium treatment decreases cardiac beta-adrenergic response in rats.
      • Prolonged lithium treatment leads to increased collagen gene expression and atrial tissue fibrosis.
      • Lithium treatment does not affect atrial beta-arrestin gene expression.


      Lithium is a widely used mood-stabilizing agent; however, it causes a variety of cardiovascular side effects including sinus node dysfunction. In this study we explored the potential adverse effects of lithium on cardiac chronotropic responsiveness, atrial tissue histology and gene expression in rats that were chronically treated with therapeutic doses of lithium. Male Wistar albino rats were given lithium chloride (2.5 g/kg) orally for 2 or 3 months. Following treatment, the atria were isolated and spontaneously beating rate and chronotropic responsiveness to β-adrenergic stimulation was evaluated in an organ bath. Development of cardiac fibrosis was examined by histological methods. The expression of atrial Col1a1 (collagen I, alpha 1) and β-arrestin2 was also assessed using quantitative RT-PCR. Treatment with lithium induced a significant hypo-responsiveness to adrenergic stimulation (P < 0.001) and caused fibrosis in the atrial tissue of treated rats. In addition, the expression of atrial Col1a1 mRNA was significantly increased in atrial tissues of lithium-treated animals, while β-arrestin2 mRNA expression did not show a significant difference compared with control animals. Altogether, these findings indicate that cardiac chronotropic hypo responsiveness and associated cardiac fibrosis are side effects of chronic lithium treatment. Moreover, it seems that lithium treatment does not influence β-arrestin2 mRNA expression.


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