Aims: Abnormal intracellular Ca2+ cycling contributes to triggered activity and arrhythmias in the heart. We investigated the properties and underlying mechanisms for systolic triggered Ca2+ waves in left atria from normal and failing dog hearts.
Methods and results: Intracellular Ca2+ cycling was studied using confocal microscopy during rapid pacing of atrial myocytes (36 °C) isolated from normal and failing canine hearts (ventricular tachypacing model). In normal atrial myocytes (NAMs), Ca2+ waves developed during rapid pacing at rates ≥ 3.3 Hz and immediately disappeared upon cessation of pacing despite high sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) load. In heart failure atrial myocytes (HFAMs), triggered Ca2+ waves (TCWs) developed at a higher incidence at slower rates. Because of their timing, TCW development relies upon action potential (AP)-evoked Ca2+ entry. The distribution of Ca2+ wave latencies indicated two populations of waves, with early events representing TCWs and late events representing conventional spontaneous Ca2+ waves. Latency analysis also demonstrated that TCWs arise after junctional Ca2+ release has occurred and spread to non-junctional (cell core) SR. TCWs also occurred in intact dog atrium and in myocytes from humans and pigs. β-adrenergic stimulation increased Ca2+ release and abolished TCWs in NAMs but was ineffective in HFAMs making this a potentially effective adaptive mechanism in normals but potentially arrhythmogenic in HF. Block of Ca-calmodulin kinase II also abolished TCWs, suggesting a role in TCW formation. Pharmacological manoeuvres that increased Ca2+ release suppressed TCWs as did interventions that decreased Ca2+ release but these also severely reduced excitation-contraction coupling.
Conclusion: TCWs develop during the atrial AP and thus could affect AP duration, producing repolarization gradients and creating a substrate for reentry, particularly in HF where they develop at slower rates and a higher incidence. TCWs may represent a mechanism for the initiation of atrial fibrillation particularly in HF.
Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Atrium; Heart failure; Ca2+ waves.
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