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J Clin Invest. 1996 Oct 1;98(7):1650-8.

Regional expression of sodium pump subunits isoforms and Na+-Ca++ exchanger in the human heart.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033, USA.


Cardiac glycosides exert a positive inotropic effect by inhibiting sodium pump (Na,K-ATPase) activity, decreasing the driving force for Na+-Ca++ exchange, and increasing cellular content and release of Ca++ during depolarization. Since the inotropic response will be a function of the level of expression of sodium pumps, which are alpha(beta) heterodimers, and of Na+-Ca++ exchangers, this study aimed to determine the regional pattern of expression of these transporters in the heart. Immunoblot assays of homogenate from atria, ventricles, and septa of 14 nonfailing human hearts established expression of Na,K-ATPase alpha1, alpha2, alpha3, beta1, and Na+-Ca++ exchangers in all regions. Na,K-ATPase beta2 expression is negligible, indicating that the human cardiac glycoside receptors are alpha1beta1, alpha2beta1, and alpha3beta1. alpha3, beta1, sodium pump activity, and Na+-Ca++ exchanger levels were 30-50% lower in atria compared to ventricles and/or septum; differences between ventricles and septum were insignificant. Functionally, the EC50 of the sodium channel activator BDF 9148 to increase force of contraction was lower in atria than ventricle muscle strips (0.36 vs. 1.54 microM). These results define the distribution of the cardiac glycoside receptor isoforms in the human heart and they demonstrate that atria have fewer sodium pumps, fewer Na+-Ca++ exchangers, and enhanced sensitivity to inotropic stimulation compared to ventricles.

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