Regional variation in myofilament length-dependent activation

Pflugers Arch. 2011 Jul;462(1):15-28. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-0933-6. Epub 2011 Feb 19.


The Frank-Starling law is an important regulatory mechanism of the heart that links the end-diastolic volume with the systolic ejection fraction. This beat-to-beat regulation of the heart, underlined at the cellular level by higher myofilament calcium sensitivity at longer sarcomere length, is known as length-dependent activation or stretch sensitization of activation. However, the heart is structurally and functionally heterogeneous and asymmetrical. Specifically, contractile properties are not uniform within the left ventricle partly due to transmural differences in action potential waveforms and calcium homeostasis. The present review will focus on the role of the contractile machinery in the transmural contractile heterogeneity and its adaptation to changes in muscle strain. The expression of different myosin isoforms, the level of titin-based passive tension, and thin and thick sarcomeric regulatory proteins are considered to explain the regional cellular contractile properties. Finally, the importance of transmural heterogeneity of length-dependent activation and the consequences of its modification on the heart mechanics are discussed. Despite extensive research since the characterization of the Frank-Starling law, the molecular mechanisms by which strain information is transduced to the contractile machinery have not been fully determined yet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure*
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology*
  • Myocardium / cytology
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myosins / chemistry
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Sarcomeres / metabolism
  • Sarcomeres / ultrastructure
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Troponin C / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Troponin C
  • Myosins
  • Calcium