This study presents a theoretical analysis of the role of store Ca²⁺ uptake on sinoatrial node (SAN) cell pacemaking. Two mechanisms have been shown to be involved in SAN pacemaking, these being: 1) the membrane oscillator model where rhythm generation is based on the interaction of voltage-dependent membrane ion channels and, 2) the store oscillator model where cyclical release of Ca²⁺ from intracellular Ca²⁺ stores depolarizes the membrane through activation of the sodium-calcium exchanger (NCX). The relative roles of these oscillators in generation and modulation of pacemaker rate have been vigorously debated and have many consequences. The main new outcomes of our study are: 1) uptake of Ca²⁺ by intracellular Ca²⁺ stores increases the maximum diastolic potential (MDP) by reducing the cytosolic Ca²⁺ concentration [Ca²⁺]c and hence decreasing the NCX current; 2) this hyperpolarization enhances recruitment of key pacemaker currents (e.g. the hyperpolarization-activated HCN current (If) and T-type Ca²⁺ current (IT-Ca)); 3) the resultant enhanced Ca²⁺ entry during the pacemaker depolarization increases [Ca²⁺]c causing advancement of the store Ca²⁺ release cycle and increased NCX current. In overview, the novel feature of our study is an investigation of the role of store Ca²⁺ uptake on SAN pacemaking. This occurs during the early diastolic period and causes enhanced If, IT-Ca and store release (and hence INCX) during the later diastolic period. There is thus a symbiotic interaction between the two pacemaker “clocks” over the entire diastolic period, this providing robust and highly malleable SAN pacemaking. Accounting for store Ca²⁺ uptake also provides insight into hitherto unexplained SAN behaviour, as we exemplify for the sinus bradycardia exhibited in catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT).
Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology Vol. 49, Issue 3, p. 412-426