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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2004 Jan;84(1):29-59.

Cytoskeletal modulation of electrical and mechanical activity in cardiac myocytes.

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  • 1School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The cardiac myocyte has an intracellular scaffold, the cytoskeleton, which has been implicated in several cardiac pathologies including hypertrophy and failure. In this review we describe the role that the cytoskeleton plays in modulating both the electrical activity (through ion channels and exchangers) and mechanical (or contractile) activity of the adult heart. We focus on the 3 components of the cytoskeleton, actin microfilaments, microtubules, and desmin filaments. The limited visual data available suggest that the subsarcolemmal actin cytoskeleton is sparse in the adult myocyte. Selective disruption of cytoskeletal actin by pharmacological tools has yet to be verified in the adult cell, yet evidence exists for modulation of several ionic currents, including I(CaL), I(Na), I(KATP), I(SAC) by actin microfilaments. Microtubules exist as a dense network throughout the adult cardiac cell, and their structure, architecture, kinetics and pharmacological manipulation are well described. Both polymerised and free tubulin are functionally significant. Microtubule proliferation reduces contraction by impeding sarcomeric motion; modulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) release may also be involved in this effect. The lack of effect of microtubule disruption on cardiac contractility in adult myocytes, and the concentration-dependent modulation of the rate of contraction by the disruptor nocodazole in neonatal myocytes, support the existence of functionally distinct microtubule populations. We address the controversy regarding the stimulation of the beta-adrenergic signalling pathway by free tubulin. Work with mice lacking desmin has demonstrated the importance of intermediate filaments to normal cardiac function, but the precise role that desmin plays in the electrical and mechanical activity of cardiac muscle has yet to be determined.

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