To determine the influence of cardiac ischemia on the activity and subcellular localization of lysosomal cathepsin D, anesthetized rabbits were subjected to ligation of the circumflex coronary artery. Total enzyme activity remained unchanged throughout the 2-h ischemic period, but the subcellular distribution of cathepsin D, as analyzed by biochemical and immunohistochemical techniques, was altered dramatically. A marked increase in nonsedimentable (i.e., 40,000-g supernate) activity developed by 30-45 min and increased further by 2 h. Simultaneously, the immunofluorescent localization of cathepsin D was also changed significantly. Within 30-60 min after occlusion, the fine, particulate staining observed in control myocytes was replaced by bright fluorescent patches composed of large granules. Many of these structures displayed prominent halos of diffuse fluorescent staining in the neighboring myocytic cytoplasm, apparently outside lysosomes per se. After 2 h, when nonsedimentable activity was maximally elevated, most of the fluorescent particles had disappeared completely. During this same interim there was no detectable change in the distribution of lysosomal cathepsin D within interstitial cells. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that an early feature of cardiac ischemia is the release of cathepsin D from myocytic lysosomes into the cytosol of damaged cells.
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