There is growing evidence that aldosterone acts on heart where it causes cellular remodeling and hypertrophy. Since it is still unclear whether aldosterone directly acts on cardiomyocytes or indirectly, by an altered electrolyte balance in the organism, we applied atomic force microscopy (AFM) in primary cultures of neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes to measure hormone-induced changes in cell volume and plasma membrane surface. AFM measures cell volume and, at the same time, provides quantitative information on cell surface properties. Neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes were cultured for 28 hours in absence or presence of 100 nM aldosterone. Spironolactone was applied as a selective aldosterone receptor antagonist. At the microscopic level, single cell volume and single cell surface were found unchanged by aldosterone. However, nanoscopy of the cell surface, i.e. analysis of the plasma membrane at the nanometer level, revealed a specific increase in plasma membrane nano-enfoldings (roughness). This aldosterone-mediated increase in cell surface roughness was completely prevented by spironolactone. We conclude: (i) Aldosterone directly acts upon cardiomyocytes. (ii) At the microscopic level, no changes of cell volume and cell surface are detectable. (iii) At the nanoscopic level, aldosterone increases plasma membrane roughness. These nanometer changes, detectable only with AFM in cells scanned in fluid after fixation under physiological conditions, indicate plasma membrane remodeling of cardiomyocytes by mineralocorticoids.

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