Acute and long-lasting cardiac changes following a single whole-body exposure to sarin vapor in rats

N Allon, I Rabinovitz, E Manistersky, B A Weissman, E Grauer
Toxicological Sciences: An Official Journal of the Society of Toxicology 2005, 87 (2): 385-90
Epinephrine-induced arrhythmias (EPIA) are known to be associated with local cardiac cholinergic activation. The present study examined the development of QT prolongation and the effect on EPIA of whole-body exposure of animals to a potent acetylcholine esterase inhibitor. Freely moving rats were exposed to sarin vapor (34.2 +/- 0.8 microg/liter) for 10 min. The electrocardiograms (ECG) of exposed and control animals were monitored every 2 weeks for 6 months. One and six months post exposure, rats were challenged with epinephrine under anesthesia, and the threshold for arrhythmias was determined. Approximately 35% of the intoxicated rats died within 24 h of sarin exposure. Additional occasional deaths were recorded for up to 6 months (final mortality rate of 48%). Surviving rats showed, agitation, aggression, and weight loss compared to non-exposed rats, and about 20% of them experienced sporadic convulsions. Sarin-challenged rats with severe symptoms demonstrated QT segment prolongation during the first 2-3 weeks after exposure. The EPIA that appeared at a significantly lower blood pressure in the treated group in the first month after intoxication lasted for up to 6 months. This decrease in EPIA threshold was blocked by atropine and methyl-atropine. Three months post exposure no significant changes were detected in either k(D) or B(max) values of (3)H-N-methyl scopolamine binding to heart homogenates, or in the affinity of carbamylcholine to cardiac muscarinic receptors. The increase in the vulnerability to develop arrhythmias long after accidental or terror-related organophosphate (OP) intoxication, especially under challenging conditions such as stress or intensive physical exercise, may explain the delayed mortality observed following OP exposure.

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