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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Feb;292(2):R810-8. Epub 2006 Sep 28.

Sex-based differences in myocardial contractile reserve.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and the Cardiovascular Research Center, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Recent studies have identified sex differences in heart function that may affect the risk of developing heart failure. We hypothesized that there are fundamental differences in calcium (Ca) regulation in cardiac myocytes of males and premenopausal females. Isometric force transients (n = 45) were measured at various stimulation frequencies to define the force frequency responses (FFR) (0.5, 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 Hz) during either changes in bath Ca ([Ca]o) (1.0, 1.75, 3.5, and 7.0 mM) or length-tension (20, 40, 60, 80, and 100% L(max)) in right ventricle trabeculae from normal male (MT) and premenopausal female (FT) cats. Force-Ca measurements were also obtained in chemically skinned trabeculae. Under basal conditions (0.5 Hz, 1.75 mM Ca, 80% L(max)) both MT and FT achieved similar developed forces (DF) (MT 11 +/- 1, FT = 10 +/- 1 mN/mm2). At low rates and lengths, there is no sex difference. At higher preloads and rates, there is a separation in DF in MT and FT. At basal [Ca]o both MT and FT exhibited positive FFR (2.0 Hz, 1.75 mM Ca: MT 38 +/- 3, FT 21 +/- 4 mN/mm2); however, at higher [Ca]o, MT achieved greater DF (2.0 Hz, 7.0 mM Ca: MT 40 +/- 3 and FT = 24 +/- 4 mN/mm2). We detected no sex difference in myofilament Ca sensitivity at a sarcomere length of 2.1 mum. However, rapid cooling contractures indicated greater sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca load in MT at higher frequencies. Despite virtually identical contractile performance under basal conditions, significant sex differences emerge under conditions of increased physiological stress. Given the lack of sex differences in myofilament Ca sensitivity, these studies suggest fundamental sex differences in cellular Ca regulation to achieve contractile reserve, with myocardium from males exhibiting higher SR Ca load.

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