Alterations in action potential profile enhance excitation-contraction coupling in rat cardiac myocytes

Rajan Sah, Rafael J. Ramirez, Roger Kaprielian, Peter H. Backx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


1. Action potential (AP) prolongation typically occurs in heart disease due to reductions in transient outward potassium currents (Ito), and is associated with increased Ca2+ transients. We investigated the underlying mechanisms responsible for enhanced Ca2+ transients in normal isolated rat ventricular myocytes in response to the AP changes that occur following myocardial infarction. 2. Normal myocytes stimulated with a train of long post-myocardial infarction (MI) APs showed a 2.2-fold elevation of the peak Ca2+ transient and a 2.7-fold augmentation of fractional cell shortening, relative to myocytes stimulated with a short control AP. 3. The steady-state Ca2+ load of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) was increased 2.0-fold when myocytes were stimulated with trains of long post-MI APs (111 ± 21.6 μmol l-1) compared with short control APs (56 ± 7.2 μmol l-1). 4. Under conditions of equal SR Ca2+ load, long post-MI APs still resulted in a 1.7-fold increase in peak [Ca2+]i and a 3.8-fold increase in fractional cell shortening relative to short control APs, establishing that changes in the triggering of SR Ca2+ release are largely responsible for elevated Ca2+ transients following AP prolongation. 5. Fractional SR Ca2+ release calculated from the measured SR Ca2+ load and the integrated SR Ca2+ fluxes was 24 ± 3 and 11 ± 2% following post-MI and control APs, respectively. 6. The fractional release (FR) of Ca2+ from the SR divided by the integrated L-type Ca2+ flux (FR/∫FCa, L) was increased 1.2-fold by post-MI APs compared with control APs. Similar increases in excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling gains were observed establishing enhanced E-C coupling efficiency. 7. Our findings demonstrate that AP prolongation alone can markedly enhance E-C coupling in normal myocytes through increases in the L-type Ca2+ current (ICa, L) trigger combined with modest enhancements in Ca2+ release efficiency. We propose that such changes in AP profile in diseased myocardium may contribute significantly to alterations in E-C coupling independent of other biochemical or genetic changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-214
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2001

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