Under construction: The dynamic assembly, maintenance, and degradation of the cardiac sarcomere

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2020 Nov;148:89-102. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2020.08.018. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


The sarcomere is the basic contractile unit of striated muscle and is a highly ordered protein complex with the actin and myosin filaments at its core. Assembling the sarcomere constituents into this organized structure in development, and with muscle growth as new sarcomeres are built, is a complex process coordinated by numerous factors. Once assembled, the sarcomere requires constant maintenance as its continuous contraction is accompanied by elevated mechanical, thermal, and oxidative stress, which predispose proteins to misfolding and toxic aggregation. To prevent protein misfolding and maintain sarcomere integrity, the sarcomere is monitored by an assortment of protein quality control (PQC) mechanisms. The need for effective PQC is heightened in cardiomyocytes which are terminally differentiated and must survive for many years while preserving optimal mechanical output. To prevent toxic protein aggregation, molecular chaperones stabilize denatured sarcomere proteins and promote their refolding. However, when old and misfolded proteins cannot be salvaged by chaperones, they must be recycled via degradation pathways: the calpain and ubiquitin-proteasome systems, which operate under basal conditions, and the stress-responsive autophagy-lysosome pathway. Mutations to and deficiency of the molecular chaperones and associated factors charged with sarcomere maintenance commonly lead to sarcomere structural disarray and the progression of heart disease, highlighting the necessity of effective sarcomere PQC for maintaining cardiac function. This review focuses on the dynamic regulation of assembly and turnover at the sarcomere with an emphasis on the chaperones involved in these processes and describes the alterations to chaperones - through mutations and deficient expression - implicated in disease progression to heart failure.

Keywords: Autophagy; Calpain; Chaperone; Proteasome; Protein quality control; Sarcomere; Sarcomerogenesis; Ubiquitin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myofibrils / metabolism
  • Sarcomeres / metabolism*