Of the ions involved in the intricate workings of the heart, calcium is considered perhaps the most important. It is crucial to the very process that enables the chambers of the heart to contract and relax, a process called excitation-contraction coupling. It is important to understand in quantitative detail exactly how calcium is moved around the various organelles of the myocyte in order to bring about excitation-contraction coupling if we are to understand the basic physiology of heart function. Furthermore, spatial microdomains within the cell are important in localizing the molecular players that orchestrate cardiac function.
Ca(2+) regulation of contraction in vertebrate striated muscle is exerted primarily through effects on the thin filament, which regulate strong cross-bridge binding to actin. Structural and biochemical studies suggest that the position of tropomyosin (Tm) and troponin (Tn) on the thin filament determines the interaction of myosin with the binding sites on actin. These binding sites can be characterized as blocked (unable to bind to cross bridges), closed (able to weakly bind cross bridges), or open (able to bind cross bridges so that they subsequently isomerize to become strongly bound and release ATP hydrolysis products). Flexibility of the Tm may allow variability in actin (A) affinity for myosin along the thin filament other than through a single 7 actin:1 tropomyosin:1 troponin (A(7)TmTn) regulatory unit. Tm position on the actin filament is regulated by the occupancy of NH-terminal Ca(2+) binding sites on TnC, conformational changes resulting from Ca(2+) binding, and changes in the interactions among Tn, Tm, and actin and as well as by strong S1 binding to actin. Ca(2+) binding to TnC enhances TnC-TnI interaction, weakens TnI attachment to its binding sites on 1-2 actins of the regulatory unit, increases Tm movement over the actin surface, and exposes myosin-binding sites on actin previously blocked by Tm. Adjacent Tm are coupled in their overlap regions where Tm movement is also controlled by interactions with TnT. TnT also interacts with TnC-TnI in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner. All these interactions may vary with the different protein isoforms. The movement of Tm over the actin surface increases the "open" probability of myosin binding sites on actins so that some are in the open configuration available for myosin binding and cross-bridge isomerization to strong binding, force-producing states. In skeletal muscle, strong binding of cycling cross bridges promotes additional Tm movement. This movement effectively stabilizes Tm in the open position and allows cooperative activation of additional actins in that and possibly neighboring A(7)TmTn regulatory units. The structural and biochemical findings support the physiological observations of steady-state and transient mechanical behavior. Physiological studies suggest the following. 1) Ca(2+) binding to Tn/Tm exposes sites on actin to which myosin can bind. 2) Ca(2+) regulates the strong binding of M.ADP.P(i) to actin, which precedes the production of force (and/or shortening) and release of hydrolysis products. 3) The initial rate of force development depends mostly on the extent of Ca(2+) activation of the thin filament and myosin kinetic properties but depends little on the initial force level. 4) A small number of strongly attached cross bridges within an A(7)TmTn regulatory unit can activate the actins in one unit and perhaps those in neighboring units. This results in additional myosin binding and isomerization to strongly bound states and force production. 5) The rates of the product release steps per se (as indicated by the unloaded shortening velocity) early in shortening are largely independent of the extent of thin filament activation ([Ca(2+)]) beyond a given baseline level. However, with a greater extent of shortening, the rates depend on the activation level. 6) The cooperativity between neighboring regulatory units contributes to the activation by strong cross bridges of steady-state force but does not affect the rate of force development. 7) Strongly attached, cycling cross bridges can delay relaxation in skeletal muscle in a cooperative manner. 8) Strongly attached and cycling cross bridges can enhance Ca(2+) binding to cardiac TnC, but influence skeletal TnC to a lesser extent. 9) Different Tn subunit isoforms can modulate the cross-bridge detachment rate as shown by studies with mutant regulatory proteins in myotubes and in in vitro motility assays. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)
Calcium (Ca) is a universal intracellular second messenger. In muscle, Ca is best known for its role in contractile activation. However, in recent years the critical role of Ca in other myocyte processes has become increasingly clear. This review focuses on Ca signaling in cardiac myocytes as pertaining to electrophysiology (including action potentials and arrhythmias), excitation-contraction coupling, modulation of contractile function, energy supply-demand balance (including mitochondrial function), cell death, and transcription regulation. Importantly, although such diverse Ca-dependent regulations occur simultaneously in a cell, the cell can distinguish distinct signals by local Ca or protein complexes and differential Ca signal integration.
The past decade has seen a remarkable explosion in our knowledge of the size and diversity of the myosin superfamily. Since these actin-based motors are candidates to provide the molecular basis for many cellular movements, it is essential that motility researchers be aware of the complete set of myosins in a given organism. The availability of cDNA and/or draft genomic sequences from humans, Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, Arabidopsis thaliana, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and Dictyostelium discoideum has allowed us to tentatively define and compare the sets of myosin genes in these organisms. This analysis has also led to the identification of several putative myosin genes that may be of general interest. In humans, for example, we find a total of 40 known or predicted myosin genes including two new myosins-I, three new class II (conventional) myosins, a second member of the class III/ninaC myosins, a gene similar to the class XV deafness myosin, and a novel myosin sharing at most 33% identity with other members of the superfamily. These myosins are in addition to the recently discovered class XVI myosin with N-terminal ankyrin repeats and two human genes with similarity to the class XVIII PDZ-myosin from mouse. We briefly describe these newly recognized myosins and extend our previous phylogenetic analysis of the myosin superfamily to include a comparison of the complete or nearly complete inventories of myosin genes from several experimentally important organisms.
Ca(2+) is a central player in the excitation-contraction coupling of cardiac myocytes, the process that enables the heart to contract and relax. Mishandling of Ca(2+) is a central cause of both contractile dysfunction and arrhythmias in pathophysiological conditions such as heart failure (HF). Upon electrical excitation, Ca(2+) enters the myocytes via voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels and induces further Ca(2+) release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). This raises the free intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)), activating contraction. Relaxation is driven by [Ca(2+)](i) decline, mainly due to re-uptake into the SR via SR Ca(2+)-ATPase and extrusion via the sarcolemmal Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchange, NCX. Intracellular Na(+) concentration ([Na(+)](i)) is a main regulator of NCX, and thus [Na(+)](i) plays an important role in controlling the cytosolic and SR [Ca(2+)]. [Na(+)](i) may have an even more important role in HF because NCX is generally upregulated. There are several pathways for Na(+) entry into the cells, whereas the Na(+)/K(+) pump (NKA) is the main Na(+) extrusion pathway and therefore is essential in maintaining the transmembrane Na(+) gradient. Phospholemman is an important regulator of NKA function (decreasing [Na(+)](i) affinity unless it is phosphorylated). Here we discuss the interplay between Ca(2+) and Na(+) in myocytes from normal and failing hearts.
Troponin is the regulatory complex of the myofibrillar thin filament that plays a critical role in regulating excitation-contraction coupling in the heart. Troponin is composed of three distinct gene products: troponin C (cTnC), the 18-kD Ca(2+)-binding subunit; troponin I (cTnI), the approximately 23-kD inhibitory subunit that prevents contraction in the absence of Ca2+ binding to cTnC; and troponin T (cTnT), the approximately 35-kD subunit that attaches troponin to tropomyosin (Tm) and to the myofibrillar thin filament. Over the past 45 years, extensive biochemical, biophysical, and structural studies have helped to elucidate the molecular basis of troponin function and thin filament activation in the heart. At the onset of systole, Ca2+ binds to the N-terminal Ca2+ binding site of cTnC initiating a conformational change in cTnC, which catalyzes protein-protein associations activating the myofibrillar thin filament. Thin filament activation in turn facilitates crossbridge cycling, myofibrillar activation, and contraction of the heart. The intrinsic length-tension properties of cardiac myocytes as well as the Frank-Starling properties of the intact heart are mediated primarily through Ca(2+)-responsive thin filament activation. cTnC, cTnI, and cTnT are encoded by distinct single-copy genes in the human genome, each of which is expressed in a unique cardiac-restricted developmentally regulated fashion. Elucidation of the transcriptional programs that regulate troponin transcription and gene expression has provided insights into the molecular mechanisms that regulate and coordinate cardiac myocyte differentiation and provided unanticipated insights into the pathogenesis of cardiac hypertrophy. Autosomal dominant mutations in cTnI and cTnT have been identified and are associated with familial hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathies.
Voltage-activated calcium channels can be divided into two subgroups based on their activation threshold, low-voltage-activated (LVA) and high-voltage-activated (HVA). Auxiliary subunits of the HVA calcium channels contribute significantly to biophysical properties of the channels. We have cloned and characterized members of two families of auxiliary subunits: alpha2delta and gamma. Two new alpha2delta subunits, alpha2delta-2 and alpha2delta-3, regulate all classes of HVA calcium channels. While the ubiquitous alpha2delta-2 modulates both neuronal and non-neuronal channels with similar efficiency, the alpha2delta-3 subunit regulates Ca(v)2.3 channels more effectively. Furthermore, alpha2delta-2 may modulate the LVA Ca(v)3.1 channel. Four new gamma subunits, gamma-2, gamma-3, gamma-4 and gamma-5, were characterized. The gamma-2 subunit modulated both the non-neuronal Ca(v)1.2 channel and the neuronal Ca(v)2.1 channel. The gamma-4 subunit affected only the Ca(v)2.1 channel. The gamma-5 subunit may be a regulatory subunit of the LVA Ca(v)3.1 channel. The Ca(v)1.2 channel is a major target for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. We have mapped the interaction site for clinically important channel blockers - dihydropyridines (DHPs) - and analysed the underlying inhibition mechanism. High-affinity inhibition is characterized by interaction with inactivated state of the channel. Its structural determinants are amino acids of the IVS6 segment, with smaller contribution of the IS6 segment, which contributes to voltage-dependence of DHP inhibition. Removal of amino acids responsible for the high-affinity inhibition revealed a low-affinity open channel block, in which amino acids of the IIIS5 and IIIS6 segments take part. Experiments with a permanently charged DHP suggested that there is another low-affinity interaction site on the alpha(1) subunit. We have cloned and characterized murine neuronal LVA Ca(v)3.1 channel. The channel has high sensitivity to the organic blocker mibefradil, moderate sensitivity to phenytoin, and low sensitivity to ethosuximide, amiloride and valproat. The channel is insensitive to tetrodotoxin and DHPs. The inorganic blockers Ni2+ and Cd2+ are moderately effective compared to La3+. The current through the Ca(v)3.1 channel inactivates faster with Ba2+ compared to Ca2+. Molecular determinants of fast inactivation are located in amino side of the intracellular carboxy terminus. The voltage dependence of charge movement is very shallow compared to the voltage dependence of current activation. Transfer of 30 % of charge correlates with activation of 70 % of measurable macroscopic current. Prolonged depolarization does not immobilize charge movement of the Ca(v)3.1 channel.
The role of Ca2+ in cardiac excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling has been established by simultaneous measurements of contractility and Ca2+ transients by means of aequorin in intact myocardium and Ca2+ sensitive fluorescent dyes in single myocytes. The E-C coupling process can be classified into 3 processes: upstream (Ca2+ mobilization), central (Ca2+ binding to troponin C) and downstream mechanism (thin filament regulation and crossbridge cycling). These mechanisms are regulated differentially by various inotropic interventions. Positive force-frequency relationship and effects of beta-adrenoceptor stimulation, phosphodiesterase 3 inhibitors and digitalis are essentially exerted via upstream mechanism. Alpha-adrenoceptor stimulation, endothelin-1, angiotensin II, and clinically available Ca2+ sensitizers, such as levosimendan and pimobendan, act by a combination of the upstream and central/downstream mechanism. The Frank-Starling mechanism and effects of Ca2+ sensitizers such as EMD 57033 and Org 30029 are primarily induced via the central/downstream mechanism. Whereas the upstream and central mechanisms are markedly suppressed in failing myocytes and under acidotic conditions, Ca2+ sensitizers such as EMD 57033 and Org 30029 can induce cardiotonic effects under such conditions. Ca2+ sensitizers have high therapeutic potential for the treatment of contractile dysfunction in congestive heart failure and ischemic heart diseases, because they have energetic advantages and less risk of Ca2+ overload and can maintain effectiveness under pathological conditions.
The Na,K-ATPase is composed of two subunits, alpha and beta, and each subunit consists of multiple isoforms. In the case of alpha, four isoforms, alpha1, alpha2, alpha3, and alpha4 are present in mammalian cells. The distribution of these isoforms is tissue- and developmental-specific, suggesting that they may play specific roles, either during development or coupled to specific physiological processes. In order to understand the functional properties of each of these isoforms, we are using gene targeting, where animals are produced lacking either one copy or both copies of the corresponding gene or have a modified gene. To date, we have produced animals lacking the alpha1 and alpha2 isoform genes. Animals lacking both copies of the alpha1 isoform gene are not viable, while animals lacking both copies of the alpha2 isoform gene make it to birth, but are either born dead or die very soon after. In the case of animals lacking one copy of the alpha1 or alpha2 isoform gene, the animals survive and appear healthy. Heart and EDL muscle from animals lacking one copy of the alpha2 isoform exhibit an increase in force of contraction, while there is reduced force of contraction in both muscles from animals lacking one copy of the alpha1 isoform gene. These studies indicate that the alpha1 and alpha2 isoforms carry out different physiological roles. The alpha2 isoform appears to be involved in regulating Ca(2+) transients involved in muscle contraction, while the alpha1 isoform probably plays a more generalized role. While we have not yet knocked out the alpha3 or alpha4 isoform genes, studies to date indicate that the alpha4 isoform is necessary to maintain sperm motility. It is thus possible that the alpha2, alpha3, and alpha4 isoforms are involved in specialized functions of various tissues, helping to explain their tissue- and developmental-specific regulation.
The experimental procedures to simultaneously detect contractile activity and Ca(2+) transients by means of the Ca(2+) sensitive bioluminescent protein aequorin in multicellular preparations, and the fluorescent dye indo-1 in single myocytes, provide powerful tools to differentiate the regulatory mechanisms of intrinsic and external inotropic interventions in intact cardiac muscle. The regulatory process of cardiac excitation-contraction coupling is classified into three categories; upstream (Ca(2+) mobilization), central (Ca(2+) binding to troponin C), and/or downstream (thin filament regulation of troponin C property or crossbridge cycling and crossbridge cycling activity itself) mechanisms. While a marked increase in contractile activity by the Frank-Starling mechanism is associated with only a small alteration in Ca(2+) transients (downstream mechanism), the force-frequency relationship is primarily due to a frequency-dependent increase of Ca(2+) transients (upstream mechanism) in mammalian ventricular myocardium. The characteristics of regulation induced by beta- and alpha-adrenoceptor stimulation are very different between the two mechanisms: the former is associated with a pronounced facilitation of an upstream mechanism, whereas the latter is primarily due to modulation of central and/or downstream mechanisms. alpha-Adrenoceptor-mediated contractile regulation is mimicked by endothelin ET(A)- and angiotensin II AT(1)-receptor stimulation. Acidosis markedly suppresses the regulation induced by Ca(2+) mobilizers, but certain Ca(2+) sensitizers are able to induce the positive inotropic effect with central and/or downstream mechanisms even under pathophysiological conditions.
To investigate the functional role of myosin light chain (MLC) isoforms in cardiac muscles, we examined the motor function of two different myosins the structure of which differed only in the MLC.
We purified myosin from atria (A-myosin) and ventricles (V-myosin) of young rats, which contained atrial-type and ventricular-type MLCs, respectively, but having identical alpha-heavy chain isoform. Actin filament velocity (Vel) was determined in the in vitro motility assay. Average force of myosin molecules (F) was estimated and single events of actin-myosin interaction were recorded with the laser trap technique.
Vel was slightly higher in A-myosin than in V-myosin, while actin-activated ATPase activity was not different. F, determined from force versus actin filament length relation, was approximately 60% higher in V-myosin (3.3 vs. 2.1 pN/microm). The mean duration of isometric force events was longer in V-myosin than in A-myosin (323+/-13 vs. 294+/-30 ms, p<0.05), while the amplitudes of unitary displacement and force of a single myosin molecule did not differ between them.
The MLC isoform can be a determinant of force-generating ability of cardiac myosin by modulating crossbridge kinetics without affecting the catalytic activity.
Calcium (Ca2+) plays an important role as a messenger in the excitation-contraction coupling process of the myocardium. It is stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and released via a calcium release channel called the ryanodine receptor. Cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2) controls Ca2+ release, which is essential for cardiac contractility. There are several molecules which bind and regulate the function of RyR2 including calstabin2, calmodulin, protein kinase A (PKA), phosphatase, sorcin and calsequestrin. Alteration of RyR2 and associated molecules can cause functional and/or structural changes of the heart, leading to heart failure and sudden cardiac death. In this review, the alteration of RyR2 and its regulatory proteins, and its roles in heart failure and sudden cardiac death, are discussed. Evidence of a possible novel therapy targeting RyR2 and its associated regulatory proteins, currently proposed by investigators, is also included in this article.