Ryanodine receptor (RyR2) is the major Ca2+ channel of the cardiac sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and plays a crucial role in the generation of myocardial force. Changes in RyR2 gating properties and resulting increases in its open probability (Po) are associated with Ca2+ leakage from the SR and arrhythmias; however, the effects of RyR2 dysfunction on myocardial contractility are unknown. Here, we investigated the possibility that a RyR2 mutation associated with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, R4496C, affects the contractile function of atrial and ventricular myocardium. We measured isometric twitch tension in left ventricular and atrial trabeculae from wild-type mice and heterozygous transgenic mice carrying the R4496C RyR2 mutation and found that twitch force was comparable under baseline conditions (30°C, 2 mM [Ca2+]o, 1 Hz). However, the positive inotropic responses to high stimulation frequency, 0.1 μM isoproterenol, and 5 mM [Ca2+]o were decreased in R4496C trabeculae, as was post-rest potentiation. We investigated the mechanisms underlying inotropic insufficiency in R4496C muscles in single ventricular myocytes. Under baseline conditions, the amplitude of the Ca2+ transient was normal, despite the reduced SR Ca2+ content. Under inotropic challenge, however, R4496C myocytes were unable to boost the amplitude of Ca2+ transients because they are incapable of properly increasing the amount of Ca2+ stored in the SR because of a larger SR Ca2+ leakage. Recovery of force in response to premature stimuli was faster in R4496C myocardium, despite the unchanged rates of recovery of L-type Ca2+ channel current (ICa-L) and SR Ca2+ content in single myocytes. A faster recovery from inactivation of the mutant R4496C channels could explain this behavior. In conclusion, changes in RyR2 channel gating associated with the R4496C mutation could be directly responsible for the alterations in both ventricular and atrial contractility. The increased RyR2 Po and fractional Ca2+ release from the SR induced by the R4496C mutation preserves baseline contractility despite a slight decrease in SR Ca2+ content, but cannot compensate for the inability to increase SR Ca2+ content during inotropic challenge.
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