The electrophysiological mechanism of the sinus node automaticity was previously considered exclusively regulated by the so-called "funny current". However, parallel investigations increasingly emphasized the importance of the Ca-homeostasis and Na/Ca exchanger (NCX). Recently, increasing experimental evidence, as well as insight through mechanistic modeling demonstrates the crucial role of the exchanger in sinus node pacemaking. NCX had a key role in the exciting story of discovery of sinus node pacemaking mechanisms, which recently settled with a consensus on the coupled-clock mechanism after decades of debate. This review focuses on the role of the Na/Ca exchanger from the early results and concepts to recent advances and attempts to give a balanced summary of the characteristics of the local, spontaneous, and rhythmic Ca releases, the molecular control of the NCX and its role in the fight-or-flight response. Transgenic animal models and pharmacological manipulation of intracellular Ca concentration and/or NCX demonstrate the pivotal function of the exchanger in sinus node automaticity. We also highlight where specific hypotheses regarding NCX function have been derived from computational modeling and require experimental validation. Nonselectivity of NCX inhibitors and the complex interplay of processes involved in Ca handling render the design and interpretation of these experiments challenging.
Background and Purpose: The exact mechanism of spontaneous pacemaking is not fully understood. Recent results suggest tight cooperation between intracellular Ca handling and sarcolemmal ion channels. An important player of this crosstalk is the Na/Ca exchanger (NCX), however, direct pharmacological evidence was unavailable so far because of the lack of a selective inhibitor. We investigated the role of the NCX current in pacemaking and analyzed the functional consequences of the I-NCX coupling by applying the novel selective NCX inhibitor ORM-10962 on the sinus node (SAN). Experimental Approach: Currents were measured by patch-clamp, Ca-transients were monitored by fluorescent optical method in rabbit SAN cells. Action potentials (AP) were recorded from rabbit SAN tissue preparations. Mechanistic computational data were obtained using the Yaniv . SAN model. Key Results: ORM-10962 (ORM) marginally reduced the SAN pacemaking cycle length with a marked increase in the diastolic Ca level as well as the transient amplitude. The bradycardic effect of NCX inhibition was augmented when the funny-current (I) was previously inhibited and , the effect of I was augmented when the Ca handling was suppressed. Conclusion and Implications: We confirmed the contribution of the NCX current to cardiac pacemaking using a novel NCX inhibitor. Our experimental and modeling data support a close cooperation between I and NCX providing an important functional consequence: these currents together establish a strong depolarization capacity providing important safety factor for stable pacemaking. Thus, after individual inhibition of I or NCX, excessive bradycardia or instability cannot be expected because each of these currents may compensate for the reduction of the other providing safe and rhythmic SAN pacemaking.
Each heartbeat is initiated by cyclic spontaneous depolarization of cardiomyocytes in the sinus node forming the primary natural pacemaker. In patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing hemodialysis, it was recently shown that the heart rate drops to very low values before they suffer from sudden cardiac death with an unexplained high incidence. We hypothesize that the electrolyte changes commonly occurring in these patients affect sinus node beating rate and could be responsible for severe bradycardia. To test this hypothesis, we extended the Fabbri et al. computational model of human sinus node cells to account for the dynamic intracellular balance of ion concentrations. Using this model, we systematically tested the effect of altered extracellular potassium, calcium, and sodium concentrations. Although sodium changes had negligible (0.15 bpm/mM) and potassium changes mild effects (8 bpm/mM), calcium changes markedly affected the beating rate (46 bpm/mM ionized calcium without autonomic control). This pronounced bradycardic effect of hypocalcemia was mediated primarily by I attenuation due to reduced driving force, particularly during late depolarization. This, in turn, caused secondary reduction of calcium concentration in the intracellular compartments and subsequent attenuation of inward I and reduction of intracellular sodium. Our in silico findings are complemented and substantiated by an empirical database study comprising 22,501 pairs of blood samples and in vivo heart rate measurements in hemodialysis patients and healthy individuals. A reduction of extracellular calcium was correlated with a decrease of heartrate by 9.9 bpm/mM total serum calcium (p < 0.001) with intact autonomic control in the cross-sectional population. In conclusion, we present mechanistic in silico and empirical in vivo data supporting the so far neglected but experimentally testable and potentially important mechanism of hypocalcemia-induced bradycardia and asystole, potentially responsible for the highly increased and so far unexplained risk of sudden cardiac death in the hemodialysis patient population.
F. Toth. Vergleich zweier Verfahren zur Segmentation von medizinischen Bilddaten mittels topologisch veränderbarer Aktiver Konturen. Universität Karlsruhe (TH), Institut für Biomedizinische Technik. . 2004