The curious role of sarcomeric proteins in control of diverse processes in cardiac myocytes
journal contributionposted on 27.05.2011, 00:00 by Ross John Solaro, Katherine A. Sheehan, Ming Lei, Yunbo Ke
Introduction Relatively recent developments in our understanding of sarcomeric proteins have expanded their role from the home of molecular motors generating force and shortening to a cellular organelle fully integrated in the control of structural, electrical, mechanical, chemical, and metabolic homeostasis. Even so, in some cases these diverse functions of sarcomeric proteins appear to remain a curiosity, not fully appreciated in the analysis of major controllers of cardiac function. This attitude toward the function of sarcomeric proteins in cardiac myocytes is summarized in the following definition of “curiosity,” which seems particularly apropos: “meddlesome; thrusting oneself into and taking an active part in others’ affairs.” We focus in this Perspective on how sarcomeric proteins function in integration with membrane channels and transporters in control of cardiac dynamics, especially in adrenergic control of cardiac function. Understanding these mechanisms at the level of cardiac sarcomeres took on special significance with the identification of mutations in sarcomeric proteins as the most common cause of familial hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies. These mutations commonly lead to structural, electrical, and metabolic remodeling and to sudden death. These disorders indicate a critical role of processes at the level of the sarcomeres in homeostatic control of cardiac energetics, dynamics, and structure. Yet, control of Ca2+ delivery to and removal from the myofilaments has dominated discussions of mechanisms regulating cardiac contractility. We first provide an alternative perspective in which rate processes at the level of the sarcomeres appear to be dominant during the rise and maintenance of systolic elastance and of isovolumic relaxation. A discussion of established adrenergic mechanisms and newly understood anti-adrenergic mechanisms controlling sarcomere response to Ca2+ follows and expands on this perspective.