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Recent Prog Horm Res. 2004;59:141-68.

Cardiomyocyte calcium and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II: friends or foes?

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Department of Pharmacology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


Calcium (Ca(2+)) is a critical second messenger in cell signaling. Elevated intracellular Ca(2+) can activate numerous Ca(2+)-regulated enzymes. These enzymes have different subcellular localizations and may respond to distinct modes of Ca(2+) mobilization. In cardiac muscle, Ca(2+) plays a central role in regulating contractility, gene expression, hypertrophy, and apoptosis. Many cellular responses to Ca(2+) signals are mediated by Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent enzymes, among which is the Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). Putative substrates for CaMKII include proteins involved in regulating Ca(2+) storage and release, transcription factors, and ion channels. The major isoform of CaMKII in the heart is CaMKIIdelta. Two cardiac splice variants, CaMKIIdelta(B) and delta(C), differ in whether they contain a nuclear localization sequence. Our laboratory has examined the hypothesis that the nuclear delta(B) and the cytoplasmic delta(C) isoforms respond to different Ca(2+) stimuli and have distinct effects on hypertrophic cardiac growth and Ca(2+) handling. We have shown that pressure overload-induced hypertrophy differentially affects the nuclear delta(B) and the cytoplasmic delta(C) isoforms of CaMKII. Additionally, using isolated myocytes and transgenic mouse models, we demonstrated that the nuclear CaMKIIdelta(B) isoform plays a key role in cardiac gene expression associated with cardiac hypertrophy. The cytoplasmic CaMKIIdelta(C) isoform phosphorylates substrates involved in Ca(2+) handling. Dysregulation of intracellular Ca(2+) and resulting changes in excitation-contraction coupling characterize heart failure and can be induced by in vivo overexpression of CaMKIIdelta(C) and phosphorylation of its substrates. The differential location of CaMKII isoforms and their relative activation by physiological vs. pathological stimuli may provide a paradigm for exploring and elucidating how Ca(2+)/CaMKII pathways can serve as both friends and foes in the heart.

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