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Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj. 2019 Apr;1863(4):661-671. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2019.01.008. Epub 2019 Jan 16.

Structure and proteolytic susceptibility of the inhibitory C-terminal tail of cardiac troponin I.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada.
Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada.
Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G2, Canada.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 1C9, Canada; Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H7, Canada.
Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada; Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada. Electronic address:



Cardiac troponin I (cTnI) has two flexible tails that control the cardiac cycle. The C-terminal tail, cTnI135-209, binds actin to shut off cardiac muscle contraction, whereas the competing calcium-dependent binding of the switch region, cTnI146-158, by cardiac troponin C (cTnC) triggers contraction. The N-terminal tail, cTnI1-37, regulates the calcium affinity of cTnC. cTnI is known to be susceptible to proteolytic cleavage by matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) and calpain, two intracellular proteases implicated in ischemia-reperfusion injury.


Soluble fragments of cTnI containing its N- and C-terminal tails, cTnI1-77 and cTnI135-209, were highly expressed and purified from E. coli. We performed in vitro proteolysis studies of both constructs using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and solution NMR studies of the C-terminal tail.


cTnI135-209 is intrinsically disordered, though it contains three regions with helical propensity (including the switch region) that acquire more structure upon actin binding. We identified three precise MMP-2 cleavage sites at cTnI P17-I18, A156-L157, and G199-M200. In contrast, calpain-2 has numerous cleavage sites throughout Y25-T30 and A152-A160. The critical cTnI switch region is targeted by both proteases.


Both N-terminal and C-terminal tails of cTnI are susceptible to cleavage by MMP-2 and calpain-2. Binding to cTnC or actin confers some protection to proteolysis, which can be understood in terms of their interactions as probed by NMR studies.


cTnI is an important marker of intracellular proteolysis in cardiomyocytes, given its many protease-specific cut sites, high natural abundance, indispensable functional role, and clinical use as gold standard biomarker of myocardial injury.


Calpain; Intrinsically disordered protein; Ischemia-reperfusion injury; Mass spectrometry; Matrix metalloproteinase-2; Myocardial infarction; Myocardial stunning; Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy

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