The Langendorff isolated rat heart was adapted to the study of minute-to-minute percentage changes in bulk protein degradation by using non-recirculating perfusion. Hearts were perfused at 8 ml/min at 35 degrees C with Krebs-Henseleit buffer containing 11 mM-glucose, and only hearts with regular ventricular rhythm were employed. Proteins were labelled by infusion of [3H]leucine for 0.5 h in vitro. A complete amino acid mixture was then added at 3 times normal rat extracellular concentrations. After labelling, the re-incorporation of [3H]leucine was competitively inhibited by addition of either 4 mM-leucine or 20 microM-cycloheximide. The residual unincorporated radioactivity and the preferentially labelled rapid-turnover proteins were eliminated during a 3 h preliminary perfusion period. The basal rate of release of [3H]leucine and percentage changes were then determined at 1 min intervals, by using each heart as its own control. Leucine metabolism was inconsequential to results. Exchange of intracellular leucine pools with extracellular leucine and subsequent release in effluent perfusate was 95% complete within approx. 2 min. The basal rate of protein degradation was unchanged by electrical stimulation of the heart rate to 360 beats/min or cessation of contractile activity by membrane depolarization under 25 mM-KCl. Infusion of the β-agonist isoprenaline at 5-500 nM caused a graded inhibition of myocardial protein degradation within 5-6 min, with a maximum inhibition of 30%. This inhibition was sustained for at least 1 h of drug administration and was reversed within 4-6 min of cessation of isoprenaline or simultaneous infusion of 1 microM of the β-receptor antagonist propranolol. Minute-to-minute adrenergic proteolytic control was a simultaneous co-variable with β-receptor-mediated inotropic changes in right-intraventricular systolic pressure. Stoppage of the heart in asystole by the Ca2+-channel blocker nifedipine (0.7 microM) delayed the onset, but did not cause sustained reversal, of adrenergic-inhibited degradation, indicating the absence of a direct obligatory mechanistic linkage between the events of the contraction-relaxation cycle and protein degradation in this preparation.

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