Sarcolemmal Blebs and Osmotic Fragility as Correlates of Irreversible Ischemic Injury in Preconditioned Isolated Rabbit Cardiomyocytes

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The hypothesis that irreversible ischemic injury is related to sub-sarcolemmal blebbing and an inherent osmotic fragility of the blebs was tested by subjecting isolated control and ischemically preconditioned (IPC) or calyculin A (CalA)-pretreated (protected) rabbit cardiomyocytes to ischemic pelleting followed by resuspension in 340, 170 or 85 mosmol medium containing trypan blue. At time points from 0-240 min, osmotic fragility was assessed by the percentage of trypan blue permeable cells. Membrane blebs were visualized with India ink preparations. Bleb formation, following acute hypo-osmotic swelling, developed by 75 min and increased with longer periods of ischemia. Osmotic fragility developed only after 75 min. Cells resuspended in 340 mosmol media did not form blebs and largely retained the ability to exclude trypan blue, even after 240 min ischemia. Although the latent tendency for osmotic blebbing preceded the development of osmotic fragility, most osmotically fragile cells became permeable without evident sarcolemmal bleb formation. The onset of osmotic fragility was delayed in protected cells, but protection did not reduce the bleb formation. It is concluded that blebbing and osmotic fragility are independent manifestations of ischemic injury. The principal locus of irreversible ischemic injury and the protection provided by IPC may lie within the sarcolemma rather than at sarcolemmal attachments to underlying adherens junctions.