Many signals have risen and fallen in the tide of investigation into mechanisms of myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure (HF). In our opinion, the multifunctional Ca and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) has emerged as a molecule to watch, in part because a solid body of accumulated data essentially satisfy Koch's postulates, showing that the CaMKII pathway is a core mechanism for promoting myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure. Multiple groups have now confirmed the following: (1) that CaMKII activity is increased in hypertrophied and failing myocardium from animal models and patients; (2) CaMKII overexpression causes myocardial hypertrophy and HF and (3) CaMKII inhibition (by drugs, inhibitory peptides and gene deletion) improves myocardial hypertrophy and HF. Patients with myocardial disease die in equal proportion from HF and arrhythmias, and a major therapeutic obstacle is that drugs designed to enhance myocardial contraction promote arrhythmias. In contrast, inhibiting the CaMKII pathway appears to reduce arrhythmias and improve myocardial responses to pathological stimuli. This brief paper will introduce the molecular physiology of CaMKII and discuss the impact of CaMKII on ion channels, Ca handling proteins and transcription in myocardium. This article is part of a special issue entitled "Key Signaling Molecules in Hypertrophy and Heart Failure".
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