The microtubule network of cardiac muscle cells has unique architectural and biophysical features to accommodate the demands of the working heart. Advances in live-cell imaging and in deciphering the 'tubulin code' have shone new light on this cytoskeletal network and its role in heart failure. Microtubule-based transport orchestrates the growth and maintenance of the contractile apparatus through spatiotemporal control of translation, while also organizing the specialized membrane systems required for excitation-contraction coupling. To withstand the high mechanical loads of the working heart, microtubules are post-translationally modified and physically reinforced. In response to stress to the myocardium, the microtubule network remodels, typically through densification, post-translational modification and stabilization. Under these conditions, physically reinforced microtubules resist the motion of the cardiomyocyte and increase myocardial stiffness. Accordingly, modified microtubules have emerged as a therapeutic target for reducing stiffness in heart failure. In this Review, we discuss the latest evidence on the contribution of microtubules to cardiac mechanics, the drivers of microtubule network remodelling in cardiac pathologies and the therapeutic potential of targeting cardiac microtubules in acquired heart diseases.
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