Omecamtiv mercabil and blebbistatin modulate cardiac contractility by perturbing the regulatory state of the myosin filament

J Physiol. 2018 Jan 1;596(1):31-46. doi: 10.1113/JP275050. Epub 2017 Nov 21.


Key points: Omecamtiv mecarbil and blebbistatin perturb the regulatory state of the thick filament in heart muscle. Omecamtiv mecarbil increases contractility at low levels of activation by stabilizing the ON state of the thick filament. Omecamtiv mecarbil decreases contractility at high levels of activation by disrupting the acto-myosin ATPase cycle. Blebbistatin reduces contractility by stabilizing the thick filament OFF state and inhibiting acto-myosin ATPase. Thick filament regulation is a promising target for novel therapeutics in heart disease.

Abstract: Contraction of heart muscle is triggered by a transient rise in intracellular free calcium concentration linked to a change in the structure of the actin-containing thin filaments that allows the head or motor domains of myosin from the thick filaments to bind to them and induce filament sliding. It is becoming increasingly clear that cardiac contractility is also regulated through structural changes in the thick filaments, although the molecular mechanisms underlying thick filament regulation are still relatively poorly understood. Here we investigated those mechanisms using small molecules - omecamtiv mecarbil (OM) and blebbistatin (BS) - that bind specifically to myosin and respectively activate or inhibit contractility in demembranated cardiac muscle cells. We measured isometric force and ATP utilization at different calcium and small-molecule concentrations in parallel with in situ structural changes determined using fluorescent probes on the myosin regulatory light chain in the thick filaments and on troponin C in the thin filaments. The results show that BS inhibits contractility and actin-myosin ATPase by stabilizing the OFF state of the thick filament in which myosin head domains are more parallel to the filament axis. In contrast, OM stabilizes the ON state of the thick filament, but inhibits contractility at high intracellular calcium concentration by disrupting the actin-myosin ATPase pathway. The effects of BS and OM on the calcium sensitivity of isometric force and filament structural changes suggest that the co-operativity of calcium activation in physiological conditions is due to positive coupling between the regulatory states of the thin and thick filaments.

Keywords: Omecamtiv Mecarbil; cardiac muscle regulation; cardiac myosin; fluorescence polarization; muscle contraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cardiac Myosins / physiology*
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Myocardial Contraction*
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Signal Transduction
  • Urea / analogs & derivatives*
  • Urea / pharmacology


  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings
  • blebbistatin
  • omecamtiv mecarbil
  • Urea
  • Cardiac Myosins
  • Calcium