Protein kinase-A phosphorylates titin in human heart muscle and reduces myofibrillar passive tension

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Protein kinase-A (PKA) is activated during β-adrenergic stimulation of the heart and is known to phosphorylate several sarcomeric proteins including the giant polypeptide titin. A PKA phosphorylation site on titin is located within the N2B-unique sequence, which is present in the elastic segment of the two major isoforms of cardiac titin, N2B and N2BA, but not in the skeletal-muscle isoforms of the N2A-type. In bovine and rat cardiomyocytes, PKA-mediated phosphorylation decreases passive tension (PT), an effect ascribed to titin phosphorylation. Whether titin is phosphorylated by PKA upon β-adrenergic stimulation in human heart has not been shown to date. Here we report that PKA induces phosphorylation of N2B and N2BA titin isoforms, as well as a characteristic proteolytic fragment of titin, T2, in human donor hearts. The PKA-induced phosphorylation signals were stronger when myofilaments were first de-phosphorylated by protein phosphatase-1, suggesting inherent phosphorylation of titin in human heart. Titin phosphorylation was associated with a reduction in PT of skinned human cardiac strips; the relative decrease was higher at shorter than at longer physiological sarcomere lengths. The PKA-dependent PT drop was substantially larger when fibers were pre-treated with protein phosphatase-1, indicating that inherent phosphorylation of titin is important for the basal myocardial PT level. Mechanical measurements on isolated myofibrils from rat heart confirmed the PKA effect on passive stiffness and also showed a more pronounced effect in the presence of reducing agent, DTT. In contrast, PKA did not alter the PT of single skinned rat diaphragm muscle fibers; however, the kinase was still able to phosphorylate the skeletal N2A-titin isoform, which lacks the N2B-unique sequence. Thus, an additional phosphorylation site in titin may exist outside the cardiac N2B-unique sequence. We conclude that PKA mediates phosphorylation of titin in normal human myocardium. Titin phosphorylation lowers titin-based passive stiffness in heart but not in skeletal muscle.

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