Introduction: Cardiac myocytes utilize three high-capacity Na transport processes whose precise function can determine myocyte fate and the triggering of arrhythmias in pathological settings. We present recent results on the regulation of all three transporters that may be important for an understanding of cardiac function during ischemia/reperfusion episodes.
Methods and Results: Refined ion selective electrode (ISE) techniques and giant patch methods were used to analyze the function of cardiac Na/K pumps, Na/Ca exchange (NCX1), and Na/H exchange (NHE1) in excised cardiac patches and intact myocytes. To consider results cohesively, simulations were developed that account for electroneutrality of the cytoplasm, ion homeostasis, water homeostasis (i.e., cell volume), and cytoplasmic pH. The Na/K pump determines the average life-time of Na ions (3–10 minutes) as well as K ions (>30 minutes) in the cytoplasm. The long time course of K homeostasis can determine the time course of myocyte volume changes after ion homeostasis is perturbed. In excised patches, cardiac Na/K pumps turn on slowly (−30 seconds) with millimolar ATP dependence, when activated for the first time. In steady state, however, pumps are fully active with <0.2 mM ATP and are nearly unaffected by high ADP (2 mM) and Pi (10 mM) concentrations as may occur in ischemia. NCX1s appear to operate with slippage that contributes to background Na influx and inward current in heart. Thus, myocyte Na levels may be regulated by the inactivation reactions of the exchanger which are both Na- and proton-dependent. NHE1 also undergo strong Na-dependent inactivation, whereby a brief rise of cytoplasmic Na can cause inactivation that persists for many minutes after cytoplasmic Na is removed. This mechanism is blocked by pertussis toxin, suggesting involvement of a Na-dependent G-protein. Given that maximal NCX1- and NHE1-mediated ion fluxes are much greater than maximal Na/K pump-mediated Na extrusion in myocytes, the Na-dependent inactivation mechanisms of NCX1 and NHE1 may be important determinants of cardiac Na homeostasis.
Conclusions: Na/K pumps appear to be optimized to continue operation when energy reserves are compromised. Both NCX1 and NHE1 activities are regulated by accumulation of cytoplasmic Na. These principles may importantly control cardiac cytoplasmic Na and promote myocyte survival during ischemia/reperfusion episodes by preventing Ca overload.