Aim: To assess how ovarian-derived sex hormones (in particular progesterone) modify the effects of single acute stress on the mechanical and biochemical properties of left ventricular cardiomyocytes in the rat. Methods: Non-ovariectomized (control, n = 8) and ovariectomized (OVX, n = 8) female rats were kept under normal conditions or were exposed to stress (control-S, n = 8 and OVX-S, n = 8). Serum progesterone levels were measured using a chemiluminescent immunoassay. Left ventricular myocardial samples were used for isometric force measurements and protein analysis. Ca2+-dependent active force (Factive), Ca2+-independent passive force (Fpassive), and Ca2+-sensitivity of force production were determined in single, mechanically isolated, permeabilized cardiomyocytes. Stress- and ovariectomy-induced alterations in myofilament proteins (myosin-binding protein C [MyBP-C], troponin I [TnI], and titin) were analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate gel electrophoresis using protein and phosphoprotein stainings. Results: Serum progesterone levels were significantly increased in stressed rats (control-S, 35.6 ± 4.8 ng/mL and OVX-S, 21.9 ± 4.0 ng/mL) compared to control (10 ± 2.9 ng/mL) and OVX (2.8 ± 0.5 ng/mL) groups. Factive was higher in the OVX groups (OVX, 25.9 ± 3.4 kN/m2 and OVX-S, 26.3 ± 3.0 kN/m2) than in control groups (control, 16.4 ± 1.2 kN/m2 and control-S, 14.4 ± 0.9 kN/m2). Regarding the potential molecular mechanisms, Factive correlated with MyBP-C phosphorylation, while myofilament Ca2+-sensitivity inversely correlated with serum progesterone levels when the mean values were plotted for all animal groups. Fpassive was unaffected by any treatment. Conclusion: Stress increases ovary-independent synthesis and release of progesterone, which may regulate Ca2+-sensitivity of force production in left ventricular cardiomyocytes. Stress and female hormones differently alter Ca2+- dependent cardiomyocyte contractile force production, which may have pathophysiological importance during stress conditions affecting postmenopausal women.
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