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Investigation of mitochondrial function represents an important parameter of cardiac physiology as mitochondria are involved in energy metabolism, oxidative stress, apoptosis, aging, mitochondrial encephalomyopathies and drug toxicity. Given this, technologies to measure cardiac mitochondrial function are in demand. One technique that employs an integrative approach to measure mitochondrial function is respirometric oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) analysis. The principle of respirometric OXPHOS assessment is centered around measuring oxygen concentration utilizing a Clark electrode. As the permeabilized fiber bundle consumes oxygen, oxygen concentration in the closed chamber declines. Using selected substrate-inhibitor-uncoupler titration protocols, electrons are provided to specific sites of the electron transport chain, allowing evaluation of mitochondrial function. Prior to respirometric analysis of mitochondrial function, mechanical and chemical preparatory techniques are utilized to permeabilize the sarcolemma of muscle fibers. Chemical permeabilization employs saponin to selectively perforate the cell membrane while maintaining cellular architecture. This paper thoroughly describes the steps involved in preparing saponin-skinned cardiac fibers for oxygen consumption measurements to evaluate mitochondrial OXPHOS. Additionally, troubleshooting advice as well as specific substrates, inhibitors and uncouplers that may be used to determine mitochondria function at specific sites of the electron transport chain are provided. Importantly, the described protocol may be easily applied to cardiac and skeletal tissue of various animal models and human samples.
We studied the effects of the protein phosphatase (PP) inhibitor cantharidin (Cant) on time parameters and force of contraction (FOC) in isometrically contracting electrically driven guinea pig papillary muscles. We correlated the mechanical parameters of contractility with phosphorylation of the inhibitory subunit of troponin (TnI-P) and with the site-specific phosphorylation of phospholamban (PLB) at serine-16 (PLB-Ser-16) and threonine-17 (PLB-Thr-17). Cant (after 30 min) started to increase FOC (112 +/- 4% of control, n = 10) and TnI-P and PLB-Thr-17 (120 +/- 5 and 128 +/- 7% of control) without any alteration of relaxation time. Cant (10 microM) started to increase PLB-Ser-16, but the relaxation was shortened at only 100 microM (from 140 +/- 9 to 116 +/- 12 ms, n = 9). Moreover, 100 microM Cant, 3 min after application, started to increase PLB-Thr-17, TnI-P, and FOC. Cant (100 microM) began to increase PLB-Ser-16 after 20 min. This was accompanied by shortening of relaxation time. Differences in protein kinase activation or different substrate specificities of PP may explain the difference in Cant-induced site-specific phosphorylation of PLB in isometrically contracting papillary muscles. Moreover, PLB-Thr-17 may be important for inotropy, whereas PLB-Ser-16 could be a major determinant of relaxation time.