Differentiating the effects of β-adrenergic stimulation and stretch on calcium and force dynamics using a novel electromechanical cardiomyocyte model

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2020 Sep 1;319(3):H519-H530. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00275.2020. Epub 2020 Jul 31.


Cardiac electrophysiology and mechanics are strongly interconnected. Calcium is crucial in this complex interplay through its role in cellular electrophysiology and sarcomere contraction. We aim to differentiate the effects of acute β-adrenergic stimulation (β-ARS) and cardiomyocyte stretch (increased sarcomere length) on calcium-transient dynamics and force generation, using a novel computational model of cardiac electromechanics. We implemented a bidirectional coupling between the O'Hara-Rudy model of human ventricular electrophysiology and the MechChem model of sarcomere mechanics through the buffering of calcium by troponin. The coupled model was validated using experimental data from large mammals or human samples. Calcium transient and force were simulated for various degrees of β-ARS and initial sarcomere lengths. The model reproduced force-frequency, quick-release, and isotonic contraction experiments, validating the bidirectional electromechanical interactions. An increase in β-ARS increased the amplitudes of force (augmented inotropy) and calcium transient, and shortened both force and calcium-transient duration (lusitropy). An increase in sarcomere length increased force amplitude even more, but decreased calcium-transient amplitude and increased both force and calcium-transient duration. Finally, a gradient in relaxation along the thin filament may explain the nonmonotonic decay in cytosolic calcium observed with high tension. Using a novel coupled human electromechanical model, we identified differential effects of β-ARS and stretch on calcium and force. Stretch mostly contributed to increased force amplitude and β-ARS to the reduction of calcium and force duration. We showed that their combination, rather than individual contributions, is key to ensure force generation, rapid relaxation, and low diastolic calcium levels.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This work identifies the contribution of electrical and mechanical alterations to regulation of calcium and force under exercise-like conditions using a novel human electromechanical model integrating ventricular electrophysiology and sarcomere mechanics. By better understanding their individual and combined effects, this can uncover arrhythmogenic mechanisms in exercise-like situations. This publicly available model is a crucial step toward understanding the complex interplay between cardiac electrophysiology and mechanics to improve arrhythmia risk prediction and treatment.

Keywords: cardiac electromechanical coupling; calcium; computer modeling; exercise; sarcomere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Muscle Spindles / metabolism*
  • Myocardial Contraction*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism*
  • Troponin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Troponin
  • Calcium