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Keywords:

  • arrhythmia;
  • calcium signalling;
  • calmodulin;
  • cardiomyocyte;
  • disease mutation

Calmodulin is the primary sensor of intracellular calcium (Ca2+) levels in eukaryotic cells playing a key role in the proper deciphering of Ca2+ signalling. Given the versatility of Ca2+ as a secondary messenger, it is not surprising that calmodulin interacts with a vast number of proteins. Calmodulin is an extraordinarily conserved protein, which has not evolved since the genesis of the vertebrate lineage, and further is encoded by three different non-allelic genes in the human genome. The protein displays a high degree of conformational plasticity, allowing for target proteins to evolve specific modes of calmodulin interaction and regulation during Ca2+ sensing. The recent identification of two calmodulin mutations giving rise to a heart arrhythmia with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia-like symptoms and sudden cardiac death in young individuals, and the following identification of another three calmodulin mutations linked to recurrent cardiac arrest in infants, is in many ways intriguing. How can mutations result in cardiac-specific phenotypes when calmodulin is fundamental for correct Ca2+ signal interpretation in virtually all cells in vertebrate organisms? Are there specific cardiac target protein interactions that are affected by these mutations? Another challenge is to elucidate how one mutated allele out of six encoding an identical calmodulin protein results in a dominant phenotype. Here we aim to give an overview of components in the cardiac contraction cycle whose function is modulated by calmodulin. In principle, these may all be implicated in the pathogenic molecular mechanism linking calmodulin mutations to cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.