Downregulation of claudin-5 in the heart is associated with the end-stage heart failure. However, the underlying mechanism of claudin-5 is unclear. Here we investigated the molecular actions of claudin-5 in perspective of mitochondria in cardiomyocytes to better understand the role of claudin-5 in cardioprotection during ischemia.
Claudin-5 was detected in the murine heart tissue and the neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCM). Its protein level was severely decreased after myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (I/R; 30 min/24 h) or hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R; 24 h/4 h). Claudin-5 was present in the mitochondria of NRCM as determined by confocal microscopy. H/R-induced downregulation of claudin-5 was accompanied by mitochondrial fragmentation. The protein level of mitofusin 2 (Mfn2) was dramatically decreased while the expression of dynamin-related protein (Drp) 1 was significantly increased after H/R. H/R-induced mitochondrial swelling and fission were observed by transmission electron microscope (TEM). Overexpression of claudin-5 by adenoviral infection reversed these structural disintegration of mitochondria. The mitochondria-centered intrinsic pathway of apoptosis triggered by H/R and indicated by the expression of cytochrome c and cleaved caspase 3 in the cytoplasm of NRCMs was also reduced by overexpressing claudin-5. Overexpression of claudin-5 in mouse heart also significantly decreased cleaved caspase 3 expression and the infarct size in ischemic heart with improved systolic function.
We demonstrated for the first time the presence of claudin-5 in the mitochondria in cardiomyocytes and provided the firm evidence for the cardioprotective role of claudin-5 in the preservation of mitochondrial dynamics and cell fate against hypoxia- or ischemia-induced stress.

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