Loss of Mitochondrial Ca2+ Uniporter Limits Inotropic Reserve and Provides Trigger and Substrate for Arrhythmias in Barth Syndrome Cardiomyopathy


Bertero E, Nickel A, Kohlhaas M, Hohl M, Sequeira V, Brune C, Schwemmlein J, Abeßer M, Schuh K, Kutschka I, Carlein C, Münker K, Atighetchi S, Müller A, Kazakov A, Kappl R, von der Malsburg K, van der Laan M, Schiuma AF, Böhm M, Laufs U, Hoth M, Rehling P, Kuhn M, Dudek J, von der Malsburg A, Prates Roma L, Maack C




Circulation. 2021 Oct 14.


Background: Barth syndrome (BTHS) is caused by mutations of the gene encoding tafazzin, which catalyzes maturation of mitochondrial cardiolipin and often manifests with systolic dysfunction during early infancy. Beyond the first months of life, BTHS cardiomyopathy typically transitions to a phenotype of diastolic dysfunction with preserved ejection fraction, blunted contractile reserve during exercise and arrhythmic vulnerability. Previous studies traced BTHS cardiomyopathy to mitochondrial formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Since mitochondrial function and ROS formation are regulated by excitation-contraction (EC) coupling, integrated analysis of mechano-energetic coupling is required to delineate the pathomechanisms of BTHS cardiomyopathy.

Methods: We analyzed cardiac function and structure in a mouse model with global knockdown of tafazzin (Taz-KD) compared to wild-type (WT) littermates. Respiratory chain assembly and function, ROS emission, and Ca2+ uptake were determined in isolated mitochondria. EC coupling was integrated with mitochondrial redox state, ROS, and Ca2+ uptake in isolated, unloaded or preloaded cardiac myocytes, and cardiac hemodynamics analyzed in vivo.

Results:Taz-KD mice develop heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (>50%) and age-dependent progression of diastolic dysfunction in the absence of fibrosis. Increased myofilament Ca2+ affinity and slowed cross-bridge cycling caused diastolic dysfunction, partly compensated by accelerated diastolic Ca2+ decay through preactivated sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA). Taz deficiency provoked heart-specific loss of mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter (MCU) protein that prevented Ca2+-induced activation of the Krebs cycle during β-adrenergic stimulation, oxidizing pyridine nucleotides and triggering arrhythmias in cardiac myocytes. In vivo, Taz-KD mice displayed prolonged QRS duration as a substrate for arrhythmias, and a lack of inotropic response to β-adrenergic stimulation. Cellular arrhythmias and QRS prolongation, but not the defective inotropic reserve, were restored by inhibiting Ca2+ export via the mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger. All alterations occurred in the absence of excess mitochondrial ROS in vitro or in vivo.

Conclusions: Downregulation of MCU, increased myofilament Ca2+ affinity, and preactivated SERCA provoke mechano-energetic uncoupling that explains diastolic dysfunction and the lack of inotropic reserve in BTHS cardiomyopathy. Furthermore, defective mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake provides a trigger and a substrate for ventricular arrhythmias. These insights can guide the ongoing search for a cure of this orphaned disease.



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