Action potential prolongation in cardiac myocytes of old rats is an adaptation to sustain youthful intracellular Ca2+ regulation

Andrzej M. Janczewski, Harold A. Spurgeon, Edward G. Lakatta

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57 Scopus citations


Advanced age in rats is accompanied by reduced expression of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ pump (SERCA-2). The amplitudes of intracellular Ca2+ (Cai2+) transients and contractions in ventricular myocytes isolated from old (23-24-months) rats (OR), however, are similar to those of young (4-6-months) rat myocytes (YR). OR myocytes also manifest slowed inactivation of L-type Ca2+ current (ICaL) and marked prolongation of action potential (AP) duration. To determine whether and how age-associated AP prolongation preserves the Cai2+ transient amplitude in OR myocytes, we employed an AP-clamp technique with simultaneous measurements of ICaL (with Na+ current, K+ currents and Ca2+ influx via sarcolemmal Na+-Ca2+ exchanger blocked) and Cai2+ transients in OR rat ventricular myocytes dialyzed with the fluorescent Ca2+ probe, indo-1. Myocytes were stimulated with AP-shaped voltage clamp waveforms approximating the configuration of prolonged, i.e. the native, AP of OR cells (AP-L), or with short AP waveforms (AP-S), typical of YR myocytes. Changes in SR Ca2+ load were assessed by rapid, complete SR Ca2+ depletions with caffeine. As expected, during stimulation with AP-S vs AP-L, peak ICaL increased, by 21±4%, while the ICaL integral decreased, by 19±3% (P<0.01 for each). Compared to AP-L, stimulation of OR myocytes with AP-S reduced the amplitudes of the Cai2+ transient by 31±6%, its maximal rate of rise (+dCai2+/dtmax; a sensitive index of SR Ca2+ release flux) by 37±4%, and decreased the SR Ca2+ load by 29±4% (P<0.01 for each). Intriguingly, AP-S also reduced the maximal rate of the Cai2+ transient relaxation and prolonged its time to 50% decline, by 35±5% and 33±7%, respectively (P<0.01 for each). During stimulation with AP-S, the gain of Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR), indexed by +dCai2+/dtmax/ICaL, was reduced by 46±4% vs AP-L (P<0.01). We conclude that the effects of an application of a shorter AP to OR myocytes to reduce +dCai2+/dtmax and the Ca2+ transient amplitude are attributable to a reduction in SR Ca2+ load, presumably due to a reduced ICaL integral and likely also to an increased Ca2+ extrusion via sarcolemmal Na+-Ca2+ exchanger. The decrease in the Cai2+ transient relaxation rate in OR cells stimulated with shorter APs may reflect a reduction of Ca2+/calmodulin-kinase II-regulated modulation of Ca2+ uptake via SERCA-2, consequent to a reduced local Ca2+ release in the vicinity of SERCA-2, also attributable to reduced SR Ca2+ load. Thus, the reduction of CICR gain during stimulation with AP-S is the net result of both a diminished SR Ca2+ release and an increased peak ICaL. These results suggest that ventricular myocytes of old rats utilize AP prolongation to preserve an optimal SR Ca2+ loading, CICR gain and relaxation of Cai2+ transients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-648
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Action potential-clamp
  • Ca transient
  • Ca-induced Ca release gain
  • Caffeine
  • Excitation-contraction coupling
  • L-type Ca current
  • Na-Ca exchange
  • Sarcoplasmic reticulum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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