Division of Experimental Medicine, Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Medicine (Cardiology), George Washington University Medical Center, Washington DC 20037, USA
Hypomagnesemia continues to cause difficult clinical problems, such as significant cardiac arrhythmias where intravenous magnesium therapy can be lifesaving. Nutritional deficiency of magnesium may present with some subtle symptoms such as leg cramps and occasional palpitation. We have investigated dietary-induced magnesium deficiency in rodent models to assess the pathobiology associated with prolonged hypomagnesemia. We found that neuronal sources of the neuropeptide, substance P (SP), contributed to very early prooxidant/proinflammatory changes during Mg deficiency. This neurogenic inflammation is systemic in nature, affecting blood cells, cardiovascular, intestinal, and other tissues, leading to impaired cardiac contractility similar to that seen in patients with heart failure. We have used drugs that block the release of SP from neurons and SP-receptor blockers to prevent some of these pathobiological changes; whereas, blocking SP catabolism enhances inflammation. Our findings emphasize the essential role of this cation in preventing cardiomyopathic changes and intestinal inflammation in a well-studied animal model, and also implicate the need for more appreciation of the potential clinical relevance of optimal magnesium nutrition and therapy.