Abstract 1102: Cardiac-Specific Myosin Light Chain Kinase (MLCK), a Third Member of MLCK Family, Potentiates Sarcomere Formation and Cardiac Contraction
Background: Two myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) proteins, skeletal (encoded by mylk2 gene) and smooth muscle MLCK (encoded by mylk1 gene) have been shown to be expressed in mammals. Human mylk2 has been mapped as a disease locus for familial cardiac hypertrophy (OMIM 606566), suggesting that abnormal function of skeletal MLCK stimulates cardiac hypertrophy. While phosphorylation of the putative substrate of skeletal MLCK, myosin light chain 2 (MLC2), is recognized as a key regulator of cardiac contraction, the abundance of skeletal MLCK in the heart is controversial, suggesting the existence of an additional MLCK that is preferentially expressed in cardiac muscle.
Methods and Results: We characterized a new kinase named cardiac MLCK that is encoded by a gene homologous to mylk1 and 2 and is specifically expressed in the heart in both atrium and ventricle. Expression of cardiac MLCK was highly regulated by the cardiac homeobox transcription factor, Nkx2.5, in neonatal cardiomyocytes. The overall structure of cardiac MLCK protein is conserved with skeletal and smooth muscle MLCK including putative catalytic and adjacent Ca2+/calmodulin binding domains at the carboxyl-terminus. The amino-terminus is unique without significant homology to other known proteins. Cardiac MLCK phosphorylated MLC2v with a catalytic value of Km=4.3 micro M (Lineweaver-Burk analysis) indicating high affinity of cardiac MLCK to MLC2v, similar to the affinity of skeletal muscle MLCK to skeletal muscle MLC2 and smooth muscle MLCK to smooth muscle MLC2. Adenoviral-mediated overexpression of cardiac MLCK and knockdown of cardiac MLCK using RNAi in cultured cardiomyocytes revealed that cardiac MLCK regulates MLC2v phosphorylation, sarcomere organization and cardiac myocyte contraction. Expression of cardiac MLCK protein was significantly decreased in severe heart failure in vivo (post-myocardial infarction heart failure mouse model).
Conclusion: Cardiac MLCK is a new key regulator of cardiac contraction and sarcomere organization. Reduction of cardiac MLCK function leading to decreased phosphorylation of MLC2v may contribute to compromised contractile function in the failing heart.