Altered calcium handling in cardiomyocytes from arginine-glycine amidinotransferase-knockout mice is rescued by creatine

Martin Laasmaa, Jelena Branovets, Karina Barsunova, Niina Karro, Craig A Lygate, Rikke Birkedal, Marko Vendelin

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2021 Feb 1;320(2):H805-H825


The creatine kinase system facilitates energy transfer between mitochondria and the major ATPases in the heart. Creatine-deficient mice, which lack arginine-glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) to synthesize creatine and homoarginine, exhibit reduced cardiac contractility. We studied how the absence of a functional CK system influences calcium handling in isolated cardiomyocytes from AGAT-knockouts and wild-type littermates as well as in AGAT-knockout mice receiving lifelong creatine supplementation via the food. Using a combination of whole cell patch clamp and fluorescence microscopy, we demonstrate that the L-type calcium channel (LTCC) current amplitude and voltage range of activation were significantly lower in AGAT-knockout compared with wild-type littermates. Additionally, the inactivation of LTCC and the calcium transient decay were significantly slower. According to our modeling results, these changes can be reproduced by reducing three parameters in knockout mice when compared with wild-type: LTCC conductance, the exchange constant of Ca2+ transfer between subspace and cytosol, and SERCA activity. Because tissue expression of LTCC and SERCA protein were not significantly different between genotypes, this suggests the involvement of posttranslational regulatory mechanisms or structural reorganization. The AGAT-knockout phenotype of calcium handling was fully reversed by dietary creatine supplementation throughout life. Our results indicate reduced calcium cycling in cardiomyocytes from AGAT-knockouts and suggest that the creatine kinase system is important for the development of calcium handling in the heart.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY Creatine-deficient mice lacking arginine-glycine amidinotransferase exhibit compromised cardiac function. Here, we show that this is at least partially due to an overall slowing of calcium dynamics. Calcium influx into the cytosol via the L-type calcium current (LTCC) is diminished, and the rate of the sarcoendoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) pumping calcium back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum is slower. The expression of LTCC and SERCA did not change, suggesting that the changes are regulatory.

Keywords: arginine:glycine amidinotransferase knockout; calcium; creatine kinase; heart; membrane currents.