Regulatory light chain phosphorylation augments length-dependent contraction in PTU-treated rats

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Force production by actin-myosin cross-bridges in cardiac muscle is regulated by thin-filament proteins and sarcomere length (SL) throughout the heartbeat. Prior work has shown that myosin regulatory light chain (RLC), which binds to the neck of myosin heavy chain, increases cardiac contractility when phosphorylated. We recently showed that cross-bridge kinetics slow with increasing SLs, and that RLC phosphorylation amplifies this effect, using skinned rat myocardial strips predominantly composed of the faster α-cardiac myosin heavy chain isoform. In the present study, to assess how RLC phosphorylation influences length-dependent myosin function as myosin motor speed varies, we used a propylthiouracil (PTU) diet to induce >95% expression of the slower β-myosin heavy chain isoform in rat cardiac ventricles. We measured the effect of RLC phosphorylation on Ca2+-activated isometric contraction and myosin cross-bridge kinetics (via stochastic length perturbation analysis) in skinned rat papillary muscle strips at 1.9- and 2.2-μm SL. Maximum tension and Ca2+ sensitivity increased with SL, and RLC phosphorylation augmented this response at 2.2-μm SL. Subtle increases in viscoelastic myocardial stiffness occurred with RLC phosphorylation at 2.2-μm SL, but not at 1.9-μm SL, thereby suggesting that RLC phosphorylation increases β-myosin heavy chain binding or stiffness at longer SLs. The cross-bridge detachment rate slowed as SL increased, providing a potential mechanism for prolonged cross-bridge attachment to augment length-dependent activation of contraction at longer SLs. Length-dependent slowing of β-myosin heavy chain detachment rate was not affected by RLC phosphorylation. Together with our previous studies, these data suggest that both α- and β-myosin heavy chain isoforms show a length-dependent activation response and prolonged myosin attachment as SL increases in rat myocardial strips, and that RLC phosphorylation augments length-dependent activation at longer SLs. In comparing cardiac isoforms, however, we found that β-myosin heavy chain consistently showed greater length-dependent sensitivity than α-myosin heavy chain. Our work suggests that RLC phosphorylation is a vital contributor to the regulation of myocardial contractility in both cardiac myosin heavy chain isoforms.Contraction of cardiac muscle is regulated by sarcomere length and proteins that comprise the sarcomeric filaments. Breithaupt et al. find that phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chain augments length-dependent activation of contraction when β-cardiac myosin heavy chain predominates.

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