Previous studies have demonstrated that thiamine (vitamin B1) has a cytoprotective effect against ischemic damage to the heart, and that heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) is capable of protecting cardiac cells from lethal ischemia/hypoxia. We show here that thiamine has a cytoprotective effect on cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes under hypoxic insult, and also protects the cardiomyocytes against hypoxia-induced apoptosis; caspase-3 activation, PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation are all inhibited. Moreover, it increases the level of Hsp70 protein in the cardiomyocytes even under prolonged hypoxic stress and its effects on hypoxia-induced cardiac cell death are antagonized by an Hsp70 inhibitor. These results suggest that the cytoprotective effect of thiamine in cardiomyocytes under hypoxic stress is due to its ability to induce Hsp70.
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