Ca²+ spark-dependent and -independent sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca²+ leak in normal and failing rabbit ventricular myocytes

J Physiol. 2010 Dec 1;588(Pt 23):4743-57. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197913. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca²(+) leak is an important component of cardiac Ca²(+) signalling. Together with the SR Ca²(+)-ATPase (SERCA)-mediated Ca²(+) uptake, diastolic Ca²(+) leak determines SR Ca²(+) load and, therefore, the amplitude of Ca²(+) transients that initiate contraction. Spontaneous Ca²(+) sparks are thought to play a major role in SR Ca²(+) leak. In this study, we determined the quantitative contribution of sparks to SR Ca²(+) leak and tested the hypothesis that non-spark mediated Ca²(+) release also contributes to SR Ca²(+) leak. We simultaneously measured spark properties and intra-SR free Ca²(+) ([Ca²(+)](SR)) after complete inhibition of SERCA with thapsigargin in permeabilized rabbit ventricular myocytes. When [Ca²(+)](SR) declined to 279 ± 10 μm, spark activity ceased completely; however SR Ca²(+) leak continued, albeit at a slower rate. Analysis of sparks and [Ca²(+)](SR) revealed, that SR Ca²(+) leak increased as a function of [Ca²(+)](SR), with a particularly steep increase at higher [Ca²(+)](SR) ( >600 μm) where sparks become a major pathway of SR Ca²(+) leak. At low [Ca²(+)](SR) (< 300 μm), however, Ca²(+) leak occurred mostly as non-spark-mediated leak. Sensitization of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) with low doses of caffeine increased spark frequency and SR Ca²(+) leak. Complete inhibition of RyR abolished sparks and significantly decreased SR Ca²(+) leak, but did not prevent it entirely, suggesting the existence of RyR-independent Ca²(+) leak. Finally, we found that RyR-mediated Ca²(+) leak was enhanced in myocytes from failing rabbit hearts. These results show that RyRs are the main, but not sole contributor to SR Ca²(+) leak. RyR-mediated leak occurs in part as Ca²(+) sparks, but there is clearly RyR-mediated but Ca²(+) sparks independent leak.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Rabbits
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel / metabolism
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum / physiology*


  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel
  • Calcium