Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common cause of heart failure (HF) in children, resulting in high mortality and need for heart transplantation. The pathophysiology underlying pediatric DCM is largely unclear; however, there is emerging evidence that molecular adaptations and response to conventional HF medications differ between children and adults. To gain insight into alterations leading to systolic dysfunction in pediatric DCM, we measured cardiomyocyte contractile properties and sarcomeric protein phosphorylation in explanted pediatric DCM myocardium (N = 8 subjects) compared with nonfailing (NF) pediatric hearts (N = 8 subjects). Force-pCa curves were generated from skinned cardiomyocytes in the presence and absence of protein kinase A. Sarcomeric protein phosphorylation was quantified with Pro-Q Diamond staining after gel electrophoresis. Pediatric DCM cardiomyocytes demonstrate increased calcium sensitivity (pCa50 =5.70 ± 0.0291), with an associated decrease in troponin (Tn)I phosphorylation compared with NF pediatric cardiomyocytes (pCa50 =5.59 ± 0.0271, P = 0.0073). Myosin binding protein C and TnT phosphorylation are also lower in pediatric DCM, whereas desmin phosphorylation is increased. Pediatric DCM cardiomyocytes generate peak tension comparable to that of NF pediatric cardiomyocytes [DCM 29.7 mN/mm2, interquartile range (IQR) 21.5-49.2 vs. NF 32.8 mN/mm2, IQR 21.5-49.2 mN/mm2; P = 0.6125]. In addition, cooperativity is decreased in pediatric DCM compared with pediatric NF (Hill coefficient: DCM 1.56, IQR 1.31-1.94 vs. NF 1.94, IQR 1.36-2.86; P = 0.0425). Alterations in sarcomeric phosphorylation and cardiomyocyte contractile properties may represent an impaired compensatory response, contributing to the detrimental DCM phenotype in children.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Our study is the first to demonstrate that cardiomyocytes from infants and young children with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) exhibit increased calcium sensitivity (likely mediated by decreased troponin I phosphorylation) compared with nonfailing pediatric cardiomyocytes. Compared with published values in adult cardiomyocytes, pediatric cardiomyocytes have notably decreased cooperativity, with a further reduction in the setting of DCM. Distinct adaptations in cardiomyocyte contractile properties may contribute to a differential response to pharmacological therapies in the pediatric DCM population.
Keywords: calcium sensitivity; cooperativity; peak tension; pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy; troponin phosphorylation.