Background: approximately half of patients with heart failure die suddenly as a result of ventricular arrhythmias. Although abnormal Ca(2+) release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum through ryanodine receptors (RyR2) has been linked to arrhythmogenesis, the molecular mechanisms triggering release of arrhythmogenic Ca(2+) remain unknown. We tested the hypothesis that increased RyR2 phosphorylation by Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II is both necessary and sufficient to promote lethal ventricular arrhythmias.
Methods and results: mice in which the S2814 Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II site on RyR2 is constitutively activated (S2814D) develop pathological sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) release events, resulting in reduced sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) load on confocal microscopy. These Ca(2+) release events are associated with increased RyR2 open probability in lipid bilayer preparations. At baseline, young S2814D mice have structurally and functionally normal hearts without arrhythmias; however, they develop sustained ventricular tachycardia and sudden cardiac death on catecholaminergic provocation by caffeine/epinephrine or programmed electric stimulation. Young S2814D mice have a significant predisposition to sudden arrhythmogenic death after transverse aortic constriction surgery. Finally, genetic ablation of the Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II site on RyR2 (S2814A) protects mutant mice from pacing-induced arrhythmias versus wild-type mice after transverse aortic constriction surgery.
Conclusions: our results suggest that Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II phosphorylation of RyR2 Ca(2+) release channels at S2814 plays an important role in arrhythmogenesis and sudden cardiac death in mice with heart failure.