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Computer modeling of siRNA knockdown effects indicates an essential role of the Ca2+ channel alpha2delta-1 subunit in cardiac excitation-contraction coupling.

Petronel Tuluc, Georg Kern, Gerald J Obermair, Bernhard E Flucher

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 2007 Jun 26 , 104, 11091-6

L-type Ca(2+) currents determine the shape of cardiac action potentials (AP) and the magnitude of the myoplasmic Ca(2+) signal, which regulates the contraction force. The auxiliary Ca(2+) channel subunits alpha(2)delta-1 and beta(2) are important regulators of membrane expression and current properties of the cardiac Ca(2+) channel (Ca(V)1.2). However, their role in cardiac excitation-contraction coupling is still elusive. Here we addressed this question by combining siRNA knockdown of the alpha(2)delta-1 subunit in a muscle expression system with simulation of APs and Ca(2+) transients by using a quantitative computer model of ventricular myocytes. Reconstitution of dysgenic muscle cells with Ca(V)1.2 (GFP-alpha(1C)) recapitulates key properties of cardiac excitation-contraction coupling. Concomitant depletion of the alpha(2)delta-1 subunit did not perturb membrane expression or targeting of the pore-forming GFP-alpha(1C) subunit into junctions between the outer membrane and the sarcoplasmic reticulum. However, alpha(2)delta-1 depletion shifted the voltage dependence of Ca(2+) current activation by 9 mV to more positive potentials, and it slowed down activation and inactivation kinetics approximately 2-fold. Computer modeling revealed that the altered voltage dependence and current kinetics exert opposing effects on the function of ventricular myocytes that in total cause a 60% prolongation of the AP and a 2-fold increase of the myoplasmic Ca(2+) concentration during each contraction. Thus, the Ca(2+) channel alpha(2)delta-1 subunit is not essential for normal Ca(2+) channel targeting in muscle but is a key determinant of normal excitation and contraction of cardiac muscle cells, and a reduction of alpha(2)delta-1 function is predicted to severely perturb normal heart function.