Non-technical summary In heart muscle cells, fluctuations of intracellular calcium (Ca2+) concentration ([Ca2+]i) at the frequency defined by the heart rate induce contractions of the cells. Over a longer timescale the same fluctuations define the properties of the cells by regulating expressions of specific genes through the activation of a variety of cellular enzymes. In this study, we have characterized a specific cell signalling pathway, explaining how [Ca2+]i regulates the expression of the L-type calcium channel (LTCC). We show that [Ca2+]i-activated calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) activates downstream regulatory element (DRE) binding transcription factor DREAM, which consequently suppresses the expression of LTCCs. By experiments and mathematical modelling we demonstrate that the LTCC downregulation through the Ca2+–CaMKII–DREAM cascade constitutes a physiological feedback mechanism enabling cardiomyocytes to adjust the calcium intrusion through LTCCs to the amount of intracellular calcium detected by CaMKII.
Abstract Recent studies have demonstrated that changes in the activity of calcium–calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) induce a unique cardiomyocyte phenotype through the regulation of specific genes involved in excitation–contraction (E–C)-coupling. To explain the transcriptional effects of CaMKII we identified a novel CaMKII-dependent pathway for controlling the expression of the pore-forming α-subunit (Cav1.2) of the L-type calcium channel (LTCC) in cardiac myocytes. We show that overexpression of either cytosolic (δC) or nuclear (δB) CaMKII isoforms selectively downregulate the expression of the Cav1.2. Pharmacological inhibition of CaMKII activity induced measurable changes in LTCC current density and subsequent changes in cardiomyocyte calcium signalling in less than 24 h. The effect of CaMKII on the α1C-subunit gene (Cacna1c) promoter was abolished by deletion of the downstream regulatory element (DRE), which binds transcriptional repressor DREAM/calsenilin/KChIP3. Imaging DREAM–GFP (green fluorescent protein)-expressing cardiomyocytes showed that CaMKII potentiates the calcium-induced nuclear translocation of DREAM. Thereby CaMKII increases DREAM binding to the DRE consensus sequence of the endogenous Cacna1c gene. By mathematical modelling we demonstrate that the LTCC downregulation through the Ca2+–CaMKII–DREAM cascade constitutes a physiological feedback mechanism enabling cardiomyocytes to adjust the calcium intrusion through LTCCs to the amount of intracellular calcium detected by CaMKII.