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Rapid impulse propagation in the heart is a defining property of pectinated atrial myocardium (PAM) and the ventricular conduction system (VCS) and is essential for maintaining normal cardiac rhythm and optimal cardiac output. Conduction defects in these tissues produce a disproportionate burden of arrhythmic disease and are major predictors of mortality in heart failure patients. Despite the clinical importance, little is known about the gene regulatory network that dictates the fast conduction phenotype. Here, we have used signal transduction and transcriptional profiling screens to identify a genetic pathway that converges on the NRG1-responsive transcription factor ETV1 as a critical regulator of fast conduction physiology for PAM and VCS cardiomyocytes. Etv1 was highly expressed in murine PAM and VCS cardiomyocytes, where it regulates expression of Nkx2-5, Gja5, and Scn5a, key cardiac genes required for rapid conduction. Mice deficient in Etv1 exhibited marked cardiac conduction defects coupled with developmental abnormalities of the VCS. Loss of Etv1 resulted in a complete disruption of the normal sodium current heterogeneity that exists between atrial, VCS, and ventricular myocytes. Lastly, a phenome-wide association study identified a link between ETV1 and bundle branch block and heart block in humans. Together, these results identify ETV1 as a critical factor in determining fast conduction physiology in the heart.
BACKGROUND - Increasing evidence indicates that proteotoxicity plays a pathophysiologic role in experimental and human cardiomyopathy. In organ-specific amyloidoses, soluble protein oligomers are the primary cytotoxic species in the process of protein aggregation. While isolated atrial amyloidosis can develop with aging, the presence of preamyloid oligomers (PAOs) in atrial tissue has not been previously investigated.
METHODS AND RESULTS - Atrial samples were collected during elective cardiac surgery in patients without a history of atrial arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, or amyloidosis. Immunohistochemistry was performed for PAOs using a conformation-specific antibody, as well as for candidate proteins identified previously in isolated atrial amyloidosis. Using a myocardium-specific marker, the fraction of myocardium colocalizing with PAOs (PAO burden) was quantified (green/red ratio). Atrial samples were obtained from 92 patients, with a mean age of 61.7±13.8 years. Most patients (62%) were male, 23% had diabetes, 72% had hypertension, and 42% had coronary artery disease. A majority (n=62) underwent aortic valve replacement, with fewer undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (n=34) or mitral valve replacement/repair (n=24). Immunostaining detected intracellular PAOs in a majority of atrial samples, with a heterogeneous distribution throughout the myocardium. Mean green/red ratio value for the samples was 0.11±0.1 (range 0.03 to 0.77), with a value ≥0.05 in 74 patients. Atrial natriuretic peptide colocalized with PAOs in myocardium, whereas transthyretin was located in the interstitium. Adjusting for multiple covariates, PAO burden was independently associated with the presence of hypertension.
CONCLUSION - PAOs are frequently detected in human atrium, where their presence is associated with clinical hypertension.
© 2014 The Authors. Published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wiley Blackwell.
Rapid activation causes remodeling of atrial myocytes resembling that which occurs in experimental and human atrial fibrillation (AF). Using this cellular model, we previously observed transcriptional upregulation of proteins implicated in protein misfolding and amyloidosis. For organ-specific amyloidoses such as Alzheimer's disease, preamyloid oligomers (PAOs) are now recognized to be the primary cytotoxic species. In the setting of oxidative stress, highly-reactive lipid-derived mediators known as γ-ketoaldehydes (γ-KAs) have been identified that rapidly adduct proteins and cause PAO formation for amyloid β1-42 implicated in Alzheimer's. We hypothesized that rapid activation of atrial cells triggers oxidative stress with lipid peroxidation and formation of γ-KAs, which then rapidly crosslink proteins to generate PAOs. To investigate this hypothesis, rapidly-paced and control, spontaneously-beating atrial HL-1 cells were probed with a conformation-specific antibody recognizing PAOs. Rapid stimulation of atrial cells caused the generation of cytosolic PAOs along with a myocyte stress response (e.g., transcriptional upregulation of Nppa and Hspa1a), both of which were absent in control, unpaced cells. Rapid activation also caused the formation of superoxide and γ-KA adducts in atriomyocytes, while direct exposure of cells to γ-KAs resulted in PAO production. Increased cytosolic atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), and the generation of ANP oligomers with exposure to γ-KAs and rapid atrial HL-1 cell stimulation, strongly suggest a role for ANP in PAO formation. Salicylamine (SA) is a small molecule scavenger of γ-KAs that can protect proteins from modification by these reactive compounds. PAO formation and transcriptional remodeling were inhibited when cells were stimulated in the presence of SA, but not with the antioxidant curcumin, which is incapable of scavenging γ-KAs. These results demonstrate that γ-KAs promote protein misfolding and PAO formation as a component of the atrial cell stress response to rapid activation, and they provide a potential mechanistic link between oxidative stress and atrial cell injury.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
KEY POINTS - Atrial fibrillation is often initiated and perpetuated by abnormal electrical pulses repetitively originating from regions outside the heart's natural pacemaker. In this study we examined the causal role of abnormal calcium releases from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in producing repetitive electrical discharges in atrial cells and tissues. Calsequestrin2 is a protein that stabilizes the closed state of calcium release channels, i.e. the ryanodine receptors. In the atria from mice predisposed to abnormal calcium releases secondary to the absence of calsequestrin2, we observed abnormal repetitive electrical discharges that may lead to atrial fibrillation. Here, we report a novel pathological rhythm generator. Specifically, abnormal calcium release leads to electrical activation, which in turn results in another abnormal calcium release. This process repeats itself and thus sustains the repetitive electrical discharges. These results suggest that improving the stability of ryanodine receptors might be useful to treat atrial fibrillation.
ABSTRACT - Aberrant diastolic calcium (Ca) release due to leaky ryanodine receptors (RyR2s) has been recently associated with atrial fibrillation (AF) and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT). However, it remains unclear how diastolic Ca release contributes to the rising of rapid repetitive focal activity, which is considered as a common AF triggering mechanism. To address this question, we conducted simultaneous voltage/Ca optical mapping in atrial tissue and one-/two-dimensional confocal imaging in atrial tissue and myocytes from wild-type (WT, n = 15) and CPVT mice lacking calsequestrin 2 (Casq2(-/-), n = 45), which promotes diastolic Ca release. During β-adrenergic stimulation (100 nM isoproterenol), only Casq2(-/-) atrial myocytes showed pacing-induced self-sustained repetitive activity (31 ± 21 s vs. none in WT). Importantly, in atrial tissue, this repetitive activity could translate to Ca-dependent focal arrhythmia. Ectopic action potential (AP) firing during repetitive activity occurred only when diastolic Ca release achieved a sufficient level of synchronization. The AP, in turn, synchronized subsequent diastolic Ca release by temporally aligning multiple sources of Ca waves both within individual myocytes and throughout the atrial tissue. This alternating interplay between AP and diastolic Ca release perpetuates the self-sustaining repetitive activity. In fact, pharmacological disruption of synchronized diastolic Ca release (by ryanodine) prevented aberrant APs; and vice versa, the inhibition of AP (by TTX or 0 Na, 0 Ca solution) de-synchronized diastolic Ca release. Taken together, these results suggest that a cyclical interaction between synchronized diastolic Ca release and AP forms a pathological rhythm generator that is involved in Ca-dependent atrial arrhythmias in CPVT.
© 2014 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2014 The Physiological Society.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained arrhythmia disease. Current drug- and surgical-based therapies are ineffective in about 40% to 50% of AF patients; therefore, there is a great need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of this disease and identify potential therapeutic targets. In this issue of the JCI, Greiser and coworkers discovered that atrial remodeling in response to sustained tachycardia silences Ca2+ signaling in isolated rabbit and human atrial myocytes. This Ca2+ release silencing was attributable to a failure of subcellular propagated Ca2+ release due to an increased cytosolic buffering strength. The results from this study challenge the current paradigm that Ca2+ release instability underlies AF. Instead, Ca2+ silencing could be protective against the massive cellular Ca2+ loading that occurs during chronic AF.
Atrial dissociation is characterized by different types of P waves captured in an electrocardiogram, usually seen in critically ill or post-cardiac transplantation patients. Our case demonstrates a 55-year-old man, presenting with chest pain (unstable angina) in the emergency department with transient double-P waves; representing the phenomenon. Our case did not have any of the suggested causes or any known cardiac problems; therefore, with ruling out other differential diagnosis, researches must be done to find another explanation, if repeated.
Abnormalities in atrial myocardium increase the likelihood of arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation (AF). The deposition of misfolded protein, or amyloidosis, plays an important role in the pathophysiology of many diseases, including human cardiomyopathies. We have shown that genes implicated in amyloidosis are activated in a cellular model of AF, with the development of preamyloid oligomers (PAOs). PAOs are intermediates in the formation of amyloid fibrils, and they are now recognized to be the cytotoxic species during amyloidosis. To investigate the presence of PAOs in human atrium, we developed a microscopic imaging-based protocol to enable robust and reproducible quantitative analysis of PAO burden in atrial samples harvested at the time of elective cardiac surgery. Using PAO- and myocardial-specific antibodies, we found that PAO distribution was typically heterogeneous within a myocardial sample. Rigorous imaging and analysis protocols were developed to quantify the relative area of myocardium containing PAOs, termed the Green/Red ratio (G/R), for a given sample. Using these methods, reproducible G/R values were obtained when different sections of a sample were independently processed, imaged, and analyzed by different investigators. This robust technique will enable studies to investigate the role of this novel structural abnormality in the pathophysiology of and arrhythmia generation in human atrial tissue.
© The Author(s) 2014.
The bone morphogenetic protein antagonist Gremlin 2 (Grem2) is required for atrial differentiation and establishment of cardiac rhythm during embryonic development. A human Grem2 variant has been associated with familial atrial fibrillation, suggesting that abnormal Grem2 activity causes arrhythmias. However, it is not known how Grem2 integrates into signaling pathways to direct atrial cardiomyocyte differentiation. Here, we demonstrate that Grem2 expression is induced concurrently with the emergence of cardiovascular progenitor cells during differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Grem2 exposure enhances the cardiogenic potential of ESCs by 20-120-fold, preferentially inducing genes expressed in atrial myocytes such as Myl7, Nppa, and Sarcolipin. We show that Grem2 acts upstream to upregulate proatrial transcription factors CoupTFII and Hey1 and downregulate atrial fate repressors Irx4 and Hey2. The molecular phenotype of Grem2-induced atrial cardiomyocytes was further supported by induction of ion channels encoded by Kcnj3, Kcnj5, and Cacna1d genes and establishment of atrial-like action potentials shown by electrophysiological recordings. We show that promotion of atrial-like cardiomyocytes is specific to the Gremlin subfamily of BMP antagonists. Grem2 proatrial differentiation activity is conveyed by noncanonical BMP signaling through phosphorylation of JNK and can be reversed by specific JNK inhibitors, but not by dorsomorphin, an inhibitor of canonical BMP signaling. Taken together, our data provide novel mechanistic insights into atrial cardiomyocyte differentiation from pluripotent stem cells and will assist the development of future approaches to study and treat arrhythmias.
© 2014 AlphaMed Press.
The most common mechanical measure of the heart integrates ventricular strain between end-diastole and end-systole in order to provide a measure of contraction. Here an approach is described for estimating a correlate to local passive mechanical properties. Passive strain is measured by estimating ventricular strain during atrial systole. During atrial systole the atria contract causing passive stretching in the ventricles from increased volume. This modification to traditional cardiac strain is here termed atrial kick induced strain (AKIS) imaging. AKIS imaging was evaluated in a canine ablation model of chronic infarct and a canine true chronic infarct model. AKIS images of ablation lesions were compared against acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) images and tissue blanching, and true chronic infarct AKIS images were compared against delayed enhanced-contrast magnetic resonance. AKIS images were made with 2-D and 3-D ultrasound data. In both studies, AKIS images and the comparison images show good qualitative agreement and good contrast and contrast-to-noise ratio.
Copyright © 2014 World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.