Sympathetic activities are elevated in the central SNSs (sympathetic nervous systems) of hypertensive animals, but it is not known whether sympathetic innervation is also elevated in the heart. Sympathetic hyper-responsiveness in hypertension may result from oxidative stress. The aim of the present study was to investigate sympathetic hyperinnervation in DOCA (deoxycorticosterone acetate)-salt hypertensive rats with established hypertension. At 4 weeks after the start of DOCA-salt treatment and uninephrectomization, male Wistar rats were randomized into three groups for 8 weeks: vehicle, NAC (N-acetylcysteine) and triple therapy (hydralazine, hydrochlorothiazide and reserpine). DOCA-salt was associated with increased oxidant release. DOCA-salt produced concentric left ventricular hypertrophy and cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Sympathetic hyperinnervation was observed in DOCA-salt rats, as assessed by myocardial noradrenaline levels, immunofluorescent analysis of tyrosine hydroxylase, growth-associated factor 43 and neurofilament and Western blotting and real-time quantitative RT–PCR (reverse transcription–PCR) of NGF (nerve growth factor). Arrhythmic scores during programmed stimulation in DOCA-salt rats were significantly higher than those in the control rats. Triple therapy, despite being effective on BP (blood pressure), offered neither attenuated cardiomyocyte hypertrophy nor anti-arrhythmia. The effects of DOCA-salt treatment on NGF expression, sympathetic hyperinnervation and arrhythmias were attenuated by NAC. Furthermore, the effects of NAC on NGF were abolished by administering BSO (L-buthionine sulfoximine), an inhibitor of glutamate–cysteine ligase. In conclusion, DOCA-salt treatment contributes to up-regulation of NGF proteins probably through a free radical-dependent pathway in a BP-independent manner. DOCA-salt rats treated with NAC attenuate sympathetic hyperinnervation and thus show a beneficial effect on arrhythmogenic response to programmed electrical stimulation.

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