The giant elastic protein titin is largely responsible for passive forces in cardiac myocytes. A number of different titin isoforms with distinctly different structural elements within their central I-band region are expressed in human myocardium. Their coexpression has so far prevented an understanding of the respective contributions of the isoforms to myocardial elasticity. Using isoform-specific antibodies, we find in the present study that rat myocardium expresses predominantly the small N2B titin isoform, which allows us to characterize the elastic behavior of this isoform. The extensibility and force response of N2B titin were studied by using immunoelectron microscopy and by measuring the passive force-sarcomere length (SL) relation of single rat cardiac myocytes under a variety of mechanical conditions. Experimental results were compared with the predictions of a mechanical model in which the elastic titin segment behaves as two wormlike chains, the tandem immunoglobulin (Ig) segments and the PEVK segment (rich in proline [P], glutamate [E], valine [V], and lysine [K] residues), connected in series. The overall contour length was predicted from the sequence of N2B cardiac titin. According to mechanical measurements, above ~2.2 μm SL titin's elastic segment extends beyond its predicted contour length. Immunoelectron microscopy indicates that a prominent source of this contour- length gain is the extension of the unique N2B sequence (located between proximal tandem Ig segment and PEVK), and that Ig domain unfolding is negligible. Thus, the elastic region of N2B cardiac titin consists of three mechanically distinct extensible segments connected in series: the tandem Ig segment, the PEVK segment, and the unique N2B sequence. Rate-dependent and repetitive stretch-release experiments indicate that both the contour-length gain and the recovery from it involve kinetic processes, probably unfolding and refolding within the N2B segment. As a result, the contour length of titin's extensible segment depends on the rate and magnitude of the preceding mechanical perturbations. The rate of recovery from the length gain is slow, ensuring that the adjusted length is maintained through consecutive cardiac cycles and that hysteresis is minimal. Thus, as a result of the extensible properties of the unique N2B sequence, the I-band region of the N2B cardiac titin isoform functions as a molecular spring that is adjustable.
- Myocardial compliance
- Passive force
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine