Radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD) is a common and sometimes severe late side effect of radiation therapy for intrathoracic and chest wall tumors. We have previously shown that local heart irradiation in a rat model caused prolonged changes in mitochondrial respiration and increased susceptibility to mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening. Because tocotrienols are known to protect against oxidative stress-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, in this study, we examined the effects of tocotrienols on radiation-induced alterations in mitochondria, and structural and functional manifestations of RIHD. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received image-guided localized X irradiation to the heart to a total dose of 21 Gy. Twenty-four hours before irradiation, rats received a tocotrienol-enriched formulation or vehicle by oral gavage. Mitochondrial function and mitochondrial membrane parameters were studied at 2 weeks and 28 weeks after irradiation. In addition, cardiac function and histology were examined at 28 weeks. A single oral dose of the tocotrienol-enriched formulation preserved Bax/Bcl2 ratios and prevented mPTP opening and radiation-induced alterations in succinate-driven mitochondrial respiration. Nevertheless, the late effects of local heart irradiation pertaining to myocardial function and structure were not modified. Our studies suggest that a single dose of tocotrienols protects against radiation-induced mitochondrial changes, but these effects are not sufficient against long-term alterations in cardiac function or remodeling.

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