Enhanced production of angiotensin II and excessive release of norepinephrine in the ischemic heart are major causes of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Mast cell-dependent mechanisms are pivotal in the local formation of angiotensin II and modulation of norepinephrine release in cardiac pathophysiology. Cardiac mast cells increase in number in myocardial ischemia and are located in close proximity to sympathetic neurons expressing angiotensin AT1- and histamine H3-receptors. Once activated, cardiac mast cells release a host of potent pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic cytokines, chemokines, preformed mediators (e.g., histamine) and proteases (e.g., renin). In myocardial ischemia, angiotensin II (formed locally from mast cell-derived renin) and histamine (also released from local mast cells) respectively activate AT1- and H3-receptors on sympathetic nerve endings. Stimulation of angiotensin AT1-receptors is arrhythmogenic whereas H3-receptor activation is cardioprotective. It is likely that in ischemia/reperfusion the balance may be tipped toward the deleterious effects of mast cell renin, as demonstrated in mast cell-deficient mice, lacking mast cell renin and histamine in the heart. In these mice, no ventricular fibrillation occurs at reperfusion following ischemia, as opposed to wild-type hearts which all fibrillate. Preventing mast cell degranulation in the heart and inhibiting the activation of a local renin-angiotensin system, hence abolishing its detrimental effects on cardiac rhythmicity, appears to be more significant than the loss of histamine-induced cardioprotection. This suggests that therapeutic targets in the treatment of myocardial ischemia, and potentially congestive heart failure and hypertension, should include prevention of mast cell degranulation, mast cell renin inhibition, local ACE inhibition, ANG II antagonism and H3-receptor activation.
Keywords: arrhythmias, cardiac renin-angiotensin system, histamine H3-receptors, mast cell rennin, myocardial ischemia-reperfusion, norepinephrine, sensory and sympathetic nerve endings, sodium-proton exchanger, hypertension, secretory granules