Electrical signals affect the cardiomyocyte transcriptome independently of contraction

Ruben S. R. M. Martherus, Sabina J V Vanherle, Erika D. J. Timmer, Volkert A. Zeijlemaker, Jos L. Broers, Hubert J T Smeets, Joep P. Geraedts, Torik A. Y. Ayoubi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Martherus RS, Vanherle SJ, Timmer ED, Zeijlemaker VA, Broers JL, Smeets HJ, Geraedts JP, Ayoubi TA. Electrical signals affect the cardiomyocyte transcriptome independently of contraction. Physiol Genomics 42A: 283-289, 2010. First published September 21, 2010; doi:10.1152/physiolgenomics.00182.2009.-Cardiomyocytes in vivo are continuously subjected to electrical signals that evoke contractions and instigate drastic changes in the cells' morphology and function. Studies on how electrical stimulation affects the cardiac transcriptome have remained limited to a small number of heart-specific genes. Furthermore, these studies have ignored the interplay between the electrical excitation and the subsequent contractions. We carried out a genomewide assessment of the effects of electrical signaling on gene expression, while distinguishing between the effects deriving from the electrical pulses themselves and the effects instigated by the evoked contractions. Changes in gene expression in primary cultures of neonatal ventricular cardiomyocytes from Lewis Rattus norvegicus were investigated with microarrays and RT-quantitative PCR (QPCR). A series of experiments was included in which the culture medium was supplemented with the contraction inhibitor blebbistatin to allow for electrical stimulation in the absence of contraction. Electrical stimulation was shown to directly enhance calcium handling and induce cardiomyocyte differentiation by arresting cell division and activating key cardiac transcription factors as well as additional differentiation mechanisms such as wnt signaling. Several genes involved in metabolism were also directly activated by electrical stimulation. Furthermore, our data suggest that contraction exerts negative feedback on the transcription of various genes. Together, these observations indicate that intercellular electric currents between adjacent cardiomyocytes have an important role in cardiomyocyte development. They act at least partially through a pulse-specific gene expression program that is activated independently from the evoked contractions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-289
JournalPhysiological genomics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • gene expression
  • heart
  • differentiation

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