Research ArticleCell Biology

Mechanochemotransduction During Cardiomyocyte Contraction Is Mediated by Localized Nitric Oxide Signaling

Sci. Signal.  18 Mar 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 317, pp. ra27
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005046

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Pulling Harder on the Heartstings

To eject blood, a beating heart must contract against afterload, the buildup of mechanical tension in the left ventricle, which imposes mechanical stress. Calcium signaling increases in cardiomyocytes in a beating heart to enhance the strength of the muscular contraction to cope with afterload. However, this increase in calcium signaling can lead to arrhythmias. Jian et al. analyzed cardiomyocytes embedded in a gel matrix that imposed mechanical strain resembling afterload and found that nitric oxide generated near ryanodine receptors, a group of intracellular calcium channels, contributed to the afterload-induced increase in calcium signaling. These results identify potential therapeutic targets for treating various heart diseases that are caused by excessive mechanical stress or dysregulated Ca2+ signaling.