Weninger G, Pochechueva T, El Chami D, Luo X, Kohl T, Brandenburg S, Urlaub H, Guan K, Lenz C, Lehnart SE
Sci Rep. 2022 Jun 20;12(1):10387.
Calpains are calcium-activated neutral proteases involved in the regulation of key signaling pathways. Junctophilin-2 (JP2) is a Calpain-specific proteolytic target and essential structural protein inside Ca2+ release units required for excitation-contraction coupling in cardiomyocytes. While downregulation of JP2 by Calpain cleavage in heart failure has been reported, the precise molecular identity of the Calpain cleavage sites and the (patho-)physiological roles of the JP2 proteolytic products remain controversial. We systematically analyzed the JP2 cleavage fragments as function of Calpain-1 versus Calpain-2 proteolytic activities, revealing that both Calpain isoforms preferentially cleave mouse JP2 at R565, but subsequently at three additional secondary Calpain cleavage sites. Moreover, we identified the Calpain-specific primary cleavage products for the first time in human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. Knockout of RyR2 in hiPSC-cardiomyocytes destabilized JP2 resulting in an increase of the Calpain-specific cleavage fragments. The primary N-terminal cleavage product NT1 accumulated in the nucleus of mouse and human cardiomyocytes in a Ca2+-dependent manner, closely associated with euchromatic chromosomal regions, where NT1 is proposed to function as a cardio-protective transcriptional regulator in heart failure. Taken together, our data suggest that stabilizing NT1 by preventing secondary cleavage events by Calpain and other proteases could be an important therapeutic target for future studies.