Background: Iron may damage sarcomeric proteins through oxidative stress. We explored the left ventricular (LV) torsional mechanics in patients with beta-thalassaemia major and its relationship to myocardial iron load. Using HL-1 cell and B6D2F1 mouse models, we further determined the impact of iron load on proteolysis of the giant sarcomeric protein titin.
Methods and results: In 44 thalassaemia patients aged 25 ± 7 years and 38 healthy subjects, LV torsion and twisting velocities were determined at rest using speckle tracking echocardiography. Changes in LV torsional parameters during submaximal exercise testing were further assessed in 32 patients and 17 controls. Compared with controls, patients had significantly reduced LV apical rotation, torsion, systolic twisting velocity, and diastolic untwisting velocity. T2* cardiac magnetic resonance findings correlated with resting diastolic untwisting velocity. The increments from baseline and resultant LV torsion and systolic and diastolic untwisting velocities during exercise were significantly lower in patients than controls. Significant correlations existed between LV systolic torsion and diastolic untwisting velocities in patients and controls, both at rest and during exercise. In HL-1 cells and ventricular myocardium of B6D2F1 mice overloaded with iron, the titin-stained pattern of sarcomeric structure became disrupted. Gel electrophoresis of iron-overloaded mouse myocardial tissue further showed significant decrease in the amount of titin isoforms and increase in titin degradation products.
Conclusions: Resting and dynamic LV torsional mechanics is impaired in patients with beta-thalassaemia major. Cell and animal models suggest a potential role of titin degradation in iron overload-induced alteration of LV torsional mechanics.