Calcium-calmodulin kinase II mediates digitalis-induced arrhythmias

Luis A Gonano, Marisa Sepúlveda, Yanina Rico, Marcia Kaetzel, Carlos A Valverde, John Dedman, Alicia Mattiazzi, Martin Vila Petroff
Circulation. Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology 2011, 4 (6): 947-57

BACKGROUND: Digitalis-induced Na(+) accumulation results in an increase in Ca(2+)(i) via the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger, leading to enhanced sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca(2+) load, responsible for the positive inotropic and toxic arrhythmogenic effects of glycosides. A digitalis-induced increase in Ca(2+)(i) could also activate calcium-calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII), which has been shown to have proarrhythmic effects. Here, we investigate whether CaMKII underlies digitalis-induced arrhythmias and the subcellular mechanisms involved.

METHODS AND RESULTS: In paced rat ventricular myocytes (0.5 Hz), 50 μmol/L ouabain increased contraction amplitude by 160 ± 5%. In the absence of electric stimulation, ouabain promoted spontaneous contractile activity and Ca(2+) waves. Ouabain activated CaMKII (p-CaMKII), which phosphorylated its downstream targets, phospholamban (PLN) (Thr17) and ryanodine receptor (RyR) (Ser2814). Ouabain-induced spontaneous activity was prevented by inhibiting CaMKII with 2.5 μmol/L KN93 but not by 2.5 μmol/L of the inactive analog, KN92. Similar results were obtained using the CaMKII inhibitor, autocamtide-2 related inhibitory peptide (AIP) (1 to 2.5 μmol/L), and in myocytes from transgenic mice expressing SR-targeted AIP. Consistently, CaMKII overexpression exacerbated ouabain-induced spontaneous contractile activity. Ouabain was associated with an increase in SR Ca(2+) content and Ca(2+) spark frequency, indicative of enhanced SR Ca(2+) leak. KN93 suppressed the ouabain-induced increase in Ca(2+) spark frequency without affecting SR Ca(2+) content. Similar results were obtained with digoxin. In vivo, ouabain-induced arrhythmias were prevented by KN93 and absent in SR-AIP mice.

CONCLUSIONS: These results show for the first time that CaMKII mediates ouabain-induced arrhythmic/toxic effects. We suggest that CaMKII-dependent phosphorylation of the RyR, resulting in Ca(2+) leak from the SR, is the underlying mechanism involved.

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