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AIMS: Contraction of the heart is regulated by electrically evoked Ca(2+) transients (CaTs). H(+) ions, the end products of metabolism, modulate CaTs through direct interactions with Ca(2+)-handling proteins and via Na(+)-mediated coupling between acid-extruding proteins (e.g. Na(+)/H(+) exchange, NHE1) and Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchange. Restricted H(+) diffusivity in cytoplasm predisposes pH-sensitive Ca(2+) signalling to becoming non-uniform, but the involvement of readily diffusible intracellular Na(+) ions may provide a means for combatting this. METHODS AND RESULTS: CaTs were imaged in fluo3-loaded rat ventricular myocytes paced at 2 Hz. Cytoplasmic [Na(+)] ([Na(+)]i) was imaged using SBFI. Intracellular acidification by acetate exposure raised diastolic and systolic [Ca(2+)] (also observed with acid-loading by ammonium prepulse or CO₂ exposure). The systolic [Ca(2+)] response correlated with a rise in [Na(+)]i and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) load, and was blocked by the NHE1 inhibitor cariporide (CO₂/HCO₃(-)-free media). Exposure of one half of a myocyte to acetate using dual microperfusion (CO₂/HCO₃(-)-free media) raised diastolic [Ca(2+)] locally in the acidified region. Systolic [Ca(2+)] and CaT amplitude increased more uniformly along the length of the cell, but only when NHE1 was functional. Cytoplasmic Na(+) diffusivity (DNa) was measured in quiescent cells, with strophanthidin present to inhibit the Na(+)/K(+) pump. With regional acetate exposure to activate a local NHE-driven Na(+)-influx, DNa was found to be sufficiently fast (680 µm(2)/s) for transmitting the pH-systolic Ca(2+) interaction over long distances. CONCLUSIONS: Na(+) ions are rapidly diffusible messengers that expand the spatial scale of cytoplasmic pH-CaT interactions, helping to co-ordinate global Ca(2+) signalling during conditions of intracellular pH non-uniformity.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovasc Res

Publication Date





171 - 181


Acidosis, Calcium, Diffusion, E–C coupling, Na+–H+ exchange, Animals, Calcium, Heart Ventricles, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Intracellular Space, Ions, Myocardial Contraction, Myocytes, Cardiac, Rats, Sarcoplasmic Reticulum, Sodium