Cyclic AMP is a highly versatile second messenger in the heart, transducing an array of different receptor stimuli into coordinated regulation of cardiac functions including excitation-contraction (EC) coupling and gene transcription. But how cAMP can selectively regulate diverse cardiac functions is an important unanswered question in cardiac biology. This lack of basic understanding limits therapeutic strategies for heart disease aimed at suppressing certain cAMP-responsive phenotypes (e.g. structural remodeling, arrhythmia) while preserving other cAMP-responsive phenotypes (e.g. contractility, heart rate). Compartmentation of cAMP and protein kinase A (PKA) has now been directly visualized in cardiac myocytes, and compartmentation is widely hypothesized to be a fundamental mechanism providing cAMP/PKA specificity. The long term objective of this proposal is to develop a systems level understanding of how molecular mechanisms interact to determine cAMP/PKA compartmentation and selective cAMP/PKA signaling. To address this central question, we will use a unique and innovative combination of systems biology approaches: spatiotemporal systems modeling and real-time imaging of cAMP/PKA biosensors in cultured ventricular myocytes. By developing the first molecularly-detailed model of 2-adrenergic signaling (mediated by cAMP and PKA), and the first combination of mechanistic signaling models with FRET biosensors, we pioneered new integrative approaches for understanding cardiac signaling networks from a systems perspective. By iterating between these mechanistic systems models and newly possible experiments in cultured ventricular myocytes, we will test the overall hypothesis that local cAMP/PKA signals are restricted by cAMP degradation, physical barriers, and buffering, which together help mediate selective PKA activity in cytosol, sarcolemma, caveolae, and nucleus. We will test this hypothesis through 3 Specific Aims.
Specific Aim 1 characterizes mechanisms restricting local cAMP signals by imaging waves of cAMP diffusion at high spatial and temporal resolution with FRET biosensors and spatially explicit modeling.
Specific Aim 2 targets cAMP and PKA FRET biosensors specifically to caveolae, to provide the first direct measurements of local cAMP/PKA signals in this compartment. Finally, Specific Aim 3 examines mechanisms determining how nuclear PKA pathways regulate gene transcription independently of contractile function. Together, these aims will unify our understanding of how cAMP/PKA compartmentation mechanisms selectively coordinate contractility and transcription in response to diverse receptor stimuli. This work reflects a necessary first step towards quantitatively understanding selective regulation of cAMP signaling pathways in the heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and many other developed countries. Indeed, the insights provided by this work will aid future efforts towards selectively targeting therapeutics to cardiac disease mechanisms, ultimately improving public health in the U.S. and abroad.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to combine computer modeling and heart cell imaging to identify how cyclic AMP selectively regulates heart contraction vs. heart growth. We expect that this work will aid future efforts towards selectively targeting therapeutic agents towards cardiac disease mechanisms.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Electrical Signaling, Ion Transport, and Arrhythmias Study Section (ESTA)
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Adhikari, Bishow B
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University of Virginia
Biomedical Engineering
Schools of Medicine
United States
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