Local control in cardiac excitation-contraction coupling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review


The development of local control theories in cardiac excitation–contraction coupling solved a major problem in the calcium-induced calcium release (CICR) hypothesis. Local control explained how regeneration, inherent in the CICR mechanism, might be limited spatially to enable graded Ca release (and force production). The key lies in the stochastic recruitment of individual calcium release units (couplons or CRUs) where adjacent CRUs are partially uncoupled by the distance between them. In the CRU, individual groups of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium release channels (RyRs) are very close to the surface membrane where calcium influx, controlled by membrane depolarization, leads to high local Ca levels that enable a high speed response from RyRs that have a very low probability to opening at resting Ca levels. However, calcium diffusion from an activated CRU results in adjacent CRUs being exposed to much lower levels of Ca and probability of activation. This effectively uncouples the CRUs and limits overall regenerative gain to enable stability without compromising sensitivity. Nevertheless, it is still unclear how the CRU terminates its release of calcium on the physiological timescale, and possible mechanisms (and problems) are briefly reviewed. We suggest that modulation in RyR gating may serve to control average SR Ca levels to regulate other metabolic functions of the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum beyond regulating contractility. This article is part of a special issue entitled "Local Signaling in Myocytes."
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-303
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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