Dynamic regulation of subcellular calcium handling in the atria: modifying effects of stretch and adrenergic stimulation

Patrick Schönleitner

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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Atrial fibrillation is the fast and irregular heart rate that occurs when the upper chambers of the heart experience chaotic electrical activation. Three main factors contribute to the development of this disease: triggers, substrate and modifying factors. An arrhythmia is thus like a fire that needs a spark (Trigger) to ignite a pile of wood (Substrate) and depends on the humidity or accelerants (modifying factors) to burn faster or slower. This body of work takes a closer look at such modifying factors. The major finding of this thesis is that stretching atrial heart muscle cells releases Calcium ions from storage spaces within each cell. If these Calcium release events get frequent enough they can act as triggers for the arrhythmia. The thickness of the atrial muscle is heterogeneous, thus filling the atrium with blood distends thinner parts stronger than ticker portions. The varying degree of stretch might stimulate Calcium release predominantly from myocytes in thinner regions of the atria. This heterogeneity in spontaneous Calcium release can modify also the substrate. A comparable effect of stretch was previously described in the heart’s main chambers. However, it appears that the in the atria it depends on another mechanism, which could serve as a treatment target that mainly acts on the atria without negatively affecting the ventricle.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Schotten, Ulrich, Supervisor
  • Crijns, Harry, Supervisor
  • Antoons, Gudrun, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date15 Dec 2020
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • atrial fibrillation
  • Ca2+ sparks
  • RyR
  • confocal imaging
  • strain
  • SACns

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