Chagas Disease (CD) is one of the leading causes of heart failure and sudden death in Latin America. Treatments with antioxidants have provided promising alternatives to ameliorate CD. However, the specific roles of major reactive oxygen species (ROS) sources, including NADPH-oxidase 2 (NOX2), mitochondrial-derived ROS and nitric oxide (NO) in the progression or resolution of CD are yet to be elucidated. We used C57BL/6 (WT) and a gp91PHOX knockout mice (PHOX-/-), lacking functional NOX2, to investigate the effects of ablation of NOX2-derived ROS production on the outcome of acute chagasic cardiomyopathy. Infected PHOX-/- cardiomyocytes displayed an overall pro-arrhythmic phenotype, notably with higher arrhythmia incidence on ECG that was followed by higher number of early afterdepolarizations (EAD) and 2.5-fold increase in action potential (AP) duration alternans, compared to AP from infected WT mice. Furthermore, infected PHOX-/- cardiomyocytes display increased diastolic [Ca2+], aberrant Ca2+ transient and reduced Ca2+ transient amplitude. Cardiomyocyte contraction is reduced in infected WT and PHOX-/- mice, to a similar extent. Nevertheless, only infected PHOX-/- isolated cardiomyocytes displayed significant increase in non-triggered extra contractions (appearing in ~75% of cells). Electro-mechanical remodeling of infected PHOX-/-cardiomyocytes is associated with increase in NO and mitochondria-derived ROS production. Notably, EADs, AP duration alternans and in vivo arrhythmias were reverted by pre-incubation with nitric oxide synthase inhibitor L-NAME. Overall our data show for the first time that lack of NOX2-derived ROS promoted a pro-arrhythmic phenotype in the heart, in which the crosstalk between ROS and NO could play an important role in regulating cardiomyocyte electro-mechanical function during acute CD. Future studies designed to evaluate the potential role of NOX2-derived ROS in the chronic phase of CD could open new and more specific therapeutic strategies to treat CD and prevent deaths due to heart complications.
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