Virchows Archiv A

, Volume 385, Issue 2, pp 169–180 | Cite as

Morphometric observations on the rat heart after high-dose treatment with cortisol

  • Gerhard Mall
  • Helmut Reinhard
  • Doris Stopp
  • Johannes Albrecht Rossner


Male Wistar rats were treated with high cortisol doses for 1 week. The dose administered daily was 15 mg per animal in group 1 (7 animals) and 30 mg in group 2 (7 animals). 7 rats served as control group. After cortisol treatment the body weights decreased due to skeletal muscle catabolism and the heart weights increased. Morphometric analysis of the left ventricular posterior papillary muscles gave evidence that the increased heart weights resulted from an increased number of mitochondria and an increased volume of the cytoplasm, whereas the myofibrillar mass was not affected. The surface area of inner mitochondrial membranes (+cristae mitochondriales) per myofibrillar unit volume increased from 15.7 μ23 to 21.3 μ23 in group 1 and 21.4 μ23 in group 2. Ultrastructural changes indicating myocardial cell damage were absent. Similar quantitative results have been reported to occur in the early phase of cardiac overload. For elucidating the hemodynamic effects of glucocorticoid a second experiment was performed: 7 Wistar rats were treated with cortisol in the same way as group 1, 7 others of the same body weight served as control. The systolic arterial pressure was significantly elevated in the cortisol group. Though myocardial tissue is known to be able to accumulate large quantities of glucocorticoids our results indicate that the application of high cortisol doses for a short time does not produce myocardial cell damage and does not suppress the myocardial adaption to the glucocorticoid-induced hypertension, i.e. hypertrophy. On the contrary, it seems to be possible that the adaption process is itself facilitated or accelerated by the presence of high cortisol concentrations in the heart. This thesis is supported by the considerably higher relative heart weights in the cortisol groups and is in agreement with observations reported by other authors.

Key words

Cortisol Myocardium Ultrastructure Morphometry 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerhard Mall
    • 1
  • Helmut Reinhard
    • 1
  • Doris Stopp
    • 1
  • Johannes Albrecht Rossner
    • 1
  1. 1.Pathologisches Institut der Universität HeidelbergHeidelberg 1Germany

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