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Biophys J. 2010 Aug 4;99(3):755-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.04.071.

Sodium-calcium exchange is essential for effective triggering of calcium release in mouse heart.

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Departments of Medicine (Cardiology) and Physiology and the Cardiovascular Research Laboratories, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA.


In cardiac myocytes, excitation-contraction coupling depends upon sarcoplasmic reticular Ca2+ release triggered by Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels. Although Na+-Ca2+ exchange (NCX) is essential for Ca2+ extrusion, its participation in the trigger process of excitation-contraction coupling is controversial. To investigate the role of NCX in triggering, we examined Ca2+ sparks in ventricular cardiomyocytes isolated from wild-type (WT) and cardiac-specific NCX knockout (KO) mice. Myocytes from young NCX KO mice are known to exhibit normal resting cytosolic Ca2+ and normal Ca2+ transients despite reduced L-type Ca2+ current. We loaded myocytes with fluo-3 to image Ca2+ sparks using confocal microscopy in line-scan mode. The frequency of spontaneous Ca2+ sparks was reduced in KO myocytes compared with WT. However, spark amplitude and width were increased in KO mice. Permeabilizing the myocytes with saponin eliminated differences between spontaneous sparks in WT and KO mice. These results suggest that sarcolemmal processes are responsible for the reduced spark frequency and increased spark width and amplitude in KO mice. When myocytes were loaded with 1 mM fluo-3 and 3 mM EGTA via the patch pipette to buffer diadic cleft Ca2+, the number of sparks triggered by action potentials was reduced by 60% in KO cells compared to WT cells, despite similar SR Ca2+ content in both cell types. When EGTA was omitted from the pipette solution, the number of sparks triggered in KO and WT myocytes was similar. Although the number of sparks was restored in KO cells, Ca2+ release was asynchronous. These results suggest that high subsarcolemmal Ca2+ is required to ensure synchronous triggering with short spark latency in the absence of NCX. In WT mice, high subsarcolemmal Ca2+ is not required for synchronous triggering, because NCX is capable of priming the diadic cleft with sufficient Ca2+ for normal triggering, even when subsarcolemmal Ca(2+) is lowered by EGTA. Thus, reducing subsarcolemmal Ca2+ with EGTA in NCX KO mice reveals the dependence of Ca2+ release on NCX.

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