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The non-stop provision of chemical energy is of critical importance to normal cardiac function, requiring the rapid turnover of ATP to power both relaxation and contraction. Central to this is the creatine kinase (CK) phosphagen system, which buffers local ATP levels to optimise the energy available from ATP hydrolysis, to stimulate energy production via the mitochondria and to smooth out mismatches between energy supply and demand. In this review, we discuss the changes that occur in high-energy phosphate metabolism (i.e., in ATP and phosphocreatine) during ischaemia and reperfusion, which represents an acute crisis of energy provision. Evidence is presented from preclinical models that augmentation of the CK system can reduce ischaemia-reperfusion injury and improve functional recovery. Energetic impairment is also a hallmark of chronic heart failure, in particular, down-regulation of the CK system and loss of adenine nucleotides, which may contribute to pathophysiology by limiting ATP supply. Herein, we discuss the evidence for this hypothesis based on preclinical studies and in patients using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We conclude that the correlative evidence linking impaired energetics to cardiac dysfunction is compelling; however, causal evidence from loss-of-function models remains equivocal. Nevertheless, proof-of-principle studies suggest that augmentation of CK activity is a therapeutic target to improve cardiac function and remodelling in the failing heart. Further work is necessary to translate these findings to the clinic, in particular, a better understanding of the mechanisms by which the CK system is regulated in disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Sci (Lond)

Publication Date





491 - 514


adenosine triphosphate, cardiac energetics, creatine kinase, heart failure, ischaemia-reperfusion injury