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Biological noise is a key determinant of the reproducibility and adaptability of cardiac pacemaking and EC coupling.

  • Guarina, Laura
  • Moghbel, Ariana Neelufar
  • Pourhosseinzadeh, Mohammad S
  • Cudmore, Robert H
  • Sato, Daisuke
  • Clancy, Colleen E
  • Santana, Luis Fernando
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2022
eScholarship - University of California
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Each heartbeat begins with the generation of an action potential in pacemaking cells in the sinoatrial node. This signal triggers contraction of cardiac muscle through a process termed excitation-contraction (EC) coupling. EC coupling is initiated in dyadic structures of cardiac myocytes, where ryanodine receptors in the junctional sarcoplasmic reticulum come into close apposition with clusters of CaV1.2 channels in invaginations of the sarcolemma. Cooperative activation of CaV1.2 channels within these clusters causes a local increase in intracellular Ca2+ that activates the juxtaposed ryanodine receptors. A salient feature of healthy cardiac function is the reliable and precise beat-to-beat pacemaking and amplitude of Ca2+ transients during EC coupling. In this review, we discuss recent discoveries suggesting that the exquisite reproducibility of this system emerges, paradoxically, from high variability at subcellular, cellular, and network levels. This variability is attributable to stochastic fluctuations in ion channel trafficking, clustering, and gating, as well as dyadic structure, which increase intracellular Ca2+ variance during EC coupling. Although the effects of these large, local fluctuations in function and organization are sometimes negligible at the macroscopic level owing to spatial-temporal summation within and across cells in the tissue, recent work suggests that the "noisiness" of these intracellular Ca2+ events may either enhance or counterintuitively reduce variability in a context-dependent manner. Indeed, these noisy events may represent distinct regulatory features in the tuning of cardiac contractility. Collectively, these observations support the importance of incorporating experimentally determined values of Ca2+ variance in all EC coupling models. The high reproducibility of cardiac contraction is a paradoxical outcome of high Ca2+ signaling variability at subcellular, cellular, and network levels caused by stochastic fluctuations in multiple processes in time and space. This underlying stochasticity, which counterintuitively manifests as reliable, consistent Ca2+ transients during EC coupling, also allows for rapid changes in cardiac rhythmicity and contractility in health and disease.

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