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Cardiac cellular calcium (Ca2+) handling is the well-investigated mediator of excitation-contraction coupling, the process that translates cardiac electrical activation into mechanical events. The reverse--effects of mechanical stimulation on cardiomyocyte Ca2+ handling--are much less well understood, in particular during the inter-beat period, called 'diastole'. We have investigated the effects of diastolic length changes, applied axially using a pair of carbon fibres attached to opposite ends of Guinea pig isolated ventricular myocytes, on the availability of Ca2+ in the main cellular stores (the sarcoplasmic reticulum; SR), by studying the rest-decay of SR Ca2+ content [Ca2+]SR, and the reloading of the SR after prior depletion of Ca2+ from the cell. Cells were loaded with Fura-2 AM (an indicator of the cytosolic 'free' Ca2+ concentration, [Ca2+]i), and pre-conditioned by field-stimulation (2 Hz) at 37 degrees C, while [Ca2+]i transients and sarcomere length (SL) were recorded simultaneously. After reaching a steady state in the behaviour of observed parameters, stimulation was interrupted for between 5 and 60s, while cells were either held at resting length, or stretched (controlled to cause a 10% increase in SL, to aid inter-individual comparison). Thereafter, each cell was returned to its original resting length, followed by swift administration of 10mM of caffeine (in Na+/Ca2+-free solution), which causes the release of Ca2+ from the SR (caffeine), but largely prevents extrusion of Ca2+ from the cytosol to the cell exterior (Na+/Ca2+-free solution). By comparing the [Ca2+]i in cells exposed/not exposed to diastolic stretch of different duration, we assessed the rest-decay dynamics of [Ca2+]SR. To assess SR reloading after initial Ca2+ depletion, the same stretch protocol was implemented after prior emptying of the cell by application of 10mM of caffeine in normal Tyrode solution (which causes Ca2+ to be released from the SR and extruded from the cell via the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger; NCX). Axial stretch enhanced the rate of both rest-decay and reloading of [Ca2+]SR. Application of 40 microM streptomycin, a blocker of stretch-activated ion channels, did not affect the stretch-induced increase in SR reloading. This behaviour was reproduced in a computer simulation study, using a modified version of the 2006 Iribe-Kohl-Noble model of single cardiac myocyte Ca2+ handling, suggesting that stretch increases both Ca2+ leak from the SR and Ca2+ influx via the sarcolemma. This may have important implications for the mobilisation of Ca2+ in stretched cells, and could contribute to the regional 'matching' of individual cardiomyocyte contractility to dynamic, and regionally varying, changes in mechanical loads, such as diastolic pre-load, of cardiac tissue.

Original publication




Journal article


Prog Biophys Mol Biol

Publication Date





298 - 311


Animals, Guinea Pigs, Heart Ventricles, In Vitro Techniques, Mechanotransduction, Cellular, Models, Biological, Myocytes, Cardiac, Sarcomeres, Sarcoplasmic Reticulum, Stress, Mechanical