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1.  Oxidized Calmodulin Kinase II Regulates Conduction Following Myocardial Infarction: A Computational Analysis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(12):e1000583.
Calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) mediates critical signaling pathways responsible for divergent functions in the heart including calcium cycling, hypertrophy and apoptosis. Dysfunction in the CaMKII signaling pathway occurs in heart disease and is associated with increased susceptibility to life-threatening arrhythmia. Furthermore, CaMKII inhibition prevents cardiac arrhythmia and improves heart function following myocardial infarction. Recently, a novel mechanism for oxidative CaMKII activation was discovered in the heart. Here, we provide the first report of CaMKII oxidation state in a well-validated, large-animal model of heart disease. Specifically, we observe increased levels of oxidized CaMKII in the infarct border zone (BZ). These unexpected new data identify an alternative activation pathway for CaMKII in common cardiovascular disease. To study the role of oxidation-dependent CaMKII activation in creating a pro-arrhythmia substrate following myocardial infarction, we developed a new mathematical model of CaMKII activity including both oxidative and autophosphorylation activation pathways. Computer simulations using a multicellular mathematical model of the cardiac fiber demonstrate that enhanced CaMKII activity in the infarct BZ, due primarily to increased oxidation, is associated with reduced conduction velocity, increased effective refractory period, and increased susceptibility to formation of conduction block at the BZ margin, a prerequisite for reentry. Furthermore, our model predicts that CaMKII inhibition improves conduction and reduces refractoriness in the BZ, thereby reducing vulnerability to conduction block and reentry. These results identify a novel oxidation-dependent pathway for CaMKII activation in the infarct BZ that may be an effective therapeutic target for improving conduction and reducing heterogeneity in the infarcted heart.
Author Summary
Calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) is a multifunctional serine/threonine kinase that regulates diverse functions in heart. Recently, a novel pathway for CaMKII activation was discovered where oxidation of the kinase at specific methionine residues produces persistent activity. This alternative oxidation-dependent pathway has important implications for heart disease where oxidative stress is increased (e.g., heart failure and following myocardial infarction). We hypothesized that myocardial infarction caused by occlusion of a coronary artery would increase levels of oxidized CaMKII. Moreover, we hypothesized that oxidative CaMKII activation represents an important mechanistic link between increased oxidative stress and life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) in heart disease. We report a dramatic increase in levels of oxidized CaMKII following myocardial infarction in the canine. Based on these experimental data, we developed a novel mathematical model of CaMKII activity to study the role of oxidation-dependent CaMKII activation in regulating cardiac cell excitability. Our findings identify a novel role for oxidation-dependent CaMKII activation following myocardial infarction and provide a mechanistic link between oxidative stress and lethal cardiac arrhythmias in heart disease.
PMCID: PMC2778128  PMID: 19997488
2.  CaMKII Negatively Regulates Calcineurin-NFAT Signaling in Cardiac Myocytes 
Circulation research  2009;105(4):316-325.
Pathologic cardiac myocyte hypertrophy is thought to be induced by the persistent increases in intracellular Ca2+ needed to maintain cardiac function when systolic wall stress is increased. Hypertrophic Ca2+ binds to calmodulin (CaM) and activates the phosphatase calcineurin (Cn) and CaM kinase (CaMKII). Cn dephosphorylates cytoplasmic nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT), inducing its translocation to the nucleus where it activates anti-apoptotic and hypertrophic target genes. Cytoplasmic CaMKII regulates Ca2+ handling proteins but whether or not it is directly involved in hypertrophic and survival signaling is not known.
This study explored the hypothesis that cytoplasmic CaMKII reduces NFAT nuclear translocation by inhibiting the phosphatase activity of Cn.
Methods and Results
GFP-tagged NFATc3 was used to determine the cellular location of NFAT in cultured neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVM) and adult feline ventricular myocytes. Constitutively active (CaMKII-CA) or dominant negative (CaMKII-DN) mutants of cytoplasmic targeted CaMKIIδc were used to activate and inhibit cytoplasmic CaMKII activity. In NRVM CaMKII-DN (48.5±3%, P<0.01 vs control) increased while CaMKII-CA decreased (5.9±1%, P<0.01 vs control) NFAT nuclear translocation (Control: 12.3±1%). Cn inhibitors were used to show that these effects were caused by modulation of Cn activity. Increasing Ca2+ increased Cn-dependent NFAT translocation (to 71.7±7%, p<0.01) and CaMKII-CA reduced this effect (to 17.6±4%). CaMKII-CA increased TUNEL and caspase-3 activity (P<0.05). CaMKII directly phosphorylated Cn at Ser197 in CaMKII-CA infected NRVM and in hypertrophied feline hearts.
These data show that activation of cytoplasmic CaMKII inhibits NFAT nuclear translocation by phosphorylation and subsequent inhibition of Cn.
PMCID: PMC2765687  PMID: 19608982
CaMKII; Calcineurin; NFAT; Myocytes; Heart Disease
3.  CaMKII is involved in cadmium activation of MAPK and mTOR pathways leading to neuronal cell death 
Journal of neurochemistry  2011;119(5):1108-1118.
Cadmium (Cd), a toxic environmental contaminant, induces neurodegenerative diseases. Recently we have shown that Cd elevates intracellular free calcium ion ([Ca2+]i) level, leading to neuronal apoptosis partly by activating mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways. However, the underlying mechanism remains to be elucidated. Here we show that the effects of Cd elevated [Ca2+]i on MAPK and mTOR network as well as neuronal cell death are through stimulating phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). This is supported by the findings that chelating intracellular Ca2+ with BAPTA/AM or preventing Cd-induced [Ca2+]i elevation using 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate (2-APB) blocked Cd activation of CaMKII. Inhibiting CaMKII with KN93 or silencing CaMKII attenuated Cd activation of MAPK/mTOR pathways and cell death. Furthermore, inhibitors of mTOR (rapamycin), JNK (SP600125) and Erk1/2 (U0126), but not of p38 (PD169316), prevented Cd-induced neuronal cell death in part through inhibition of [Ca2+]i elevation and CaMKII phosphorylation. The results indicate that Cd activates MAPK/mTOR network triggering neuronal cell death, by stimulating CaMKII. Our findings underscore a central role of CaMKII in the neurotoxicology of Cd, and suggest that manipulation of intracellular Ca2+ level or CaMKII activity may be exploited for prevention of Cd-induced neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3217117  PMID: 21933187
cadmium; apoptosis; calcium ion; calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II; mitogen-activated protein kinase; mammalian target of rapamycin
4.  Structure of the CaMKIIδ/Calmodulin Complex Reveals the Molecular Mechanism of CaMKII Kinase Activation 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(7):e1000426.
Structural and biophysical studies reveal how CaMKII kinases, which are important for cellular learning and memory, are switched on by binding of Ca2+/calmodulin.
Long-term potentiation (LTP), a long-lasting enhancement in communication between neurons, is considered to be the major cellular mechanism underlying learning and memory. LTP triggers high-frequency calcium pulses that result in the activation of Calcium/Calmodulin (CaM)-dependent kinase II (CaMKII). CaMKII acts as a molecular switch because it remains active for a long time after the return to basal calcium levels, which is a unique property required for CaMKII function. Here we describe the crystal structure of the human CaMKIIδ/Ca2+/CaM complex, structures of all four human CaMKII catalytic domains in their autoinhibited states, as well as structures of human CaMKII oligomerization domains in their tetradecameric and physiological dodecameric states. All four autoinhibited human CaMKIIs were monomeric in the determined crystal structures but associated weakly in solution. In the CaMKIIδ/Ca2+/CaM complex, the inhibitory region adopted an extended conformation and interacted with an adjacent catalytic domain positioning T287 into the active site of the interacting protomer. Comparisons with autoinhibited CaMKII structures showed that binding of calmodulin leads to the rearrangement of residues in the active site to a conformation suitable for ATP binding and to the closure of the binding groove for the autoinhibitory helix by helix αD. The structural data, together with biophysical interaction studies, reveals the mechanism of CaMKII activation by calmodulin and explains many of the unique regulatory properties of these two essential signaling molecules.
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Author Summary
CaMKII enzymes transmit calcium ion (Ca2+) signals released inside the cell by regulating signal transduction pathways through phosphorylation: Ca2+ first binds to the small regulatory protein CaM; this Ca2+/CaM complex then binds to and activates the kinase, which phosphorylates other proteins in the cell. Since CaMKs remain active long after rapid Ca2+ pulses have dropped they function as molecular switches that turn on or off crucial cell functions in response to Ca2+ levels. The multifunctional CaMKII forms of this enzyme – of which there are four in human – are important in many processes including signaling in neurons and controlling of the heart rate. They are particularly abundant in the brain where they probably play a role in memory. CaMKII forms an exceptionally large, dodecameric complex. Here, we describe the crystal structure of this complex for each of the four human CaMKII catalytic domains in their autoinhibited states, a complex of CaMKII with Ca2+/CaM, as well as the structure of the oligomerization domain (the part of the protein that mediates complex formation) in its physiological dodecameric state and in a tetradecameric state. Detailed comparison of this large body of structural data together with biophysical studies has allowed us to better understand the structural mechanisms of CaMKII activation by CaM and to explain many of the complex regulatory features of these essential enzymes.
PMCID: PMC2910593  PMID: 20668654
5.  Calcium entry mediates hyperglycemia-induced apoptosis through Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase ll in retinal capillary endothelial cells 
Molecular Vision  2012;18:2371-2379.
Hyperglycemia-induced vascular cell apoptosis is a seminal early event in diabetic retinopathy. Prolonged hyperglycemia is known to increase intracellular cytosolic free calcium ([Ca2+]i) in retinal vascular endothelial cells (RECs), suggesting that [Ca2+]i is a critical trigger for microvascular degeneration. This study aims to elucidate Ca2+-dependent signaling mechanisms that mediate hyperglycemia-induced apoptosis in RECs.
A cultured macaque choroid-retinal endothelial cell line (RF/6A) was incubated in normal glucose (NG), NG plus the Ca2+ entry blocker 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate (2-APB), high glucose (HG), or HG plus either 2-APB, the c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor SP600125, or the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) inhibitor KN93. Changes in [Ca2+]i evoked by adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) were measured in fluo-3/AM-loaded RF/6A cells by confocal microscopy. The mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) and apoptosis were assessed by flow cytometry. Expression levels of CaMKII, phosphorylated CaMKII (p-CaMKII), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), phosphorylated JNK (p-JNK), the death receptor (Fas), and cytochrome c were detected by western blotting analysis.
Prolonged exposure to HG (96 h) potentiated ATP-evoked Ca2+ entry as well as CaMKII phosphorylation and RF/6A cell apoptosis. Enhanced apoptosis was blocked by 2-APB and KN93. Furthermore, HG increased JNK phosphorylation and Fas expression, and both responses were partially blocked by 2-APB and KN93, while the JNK inhibitor SP600125 partially reduced HG-induced Fas expression. In addition, HG depolarized the ΔΨm and triggered the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c. These early signs of mitochondria-dependent apoptosis were partially reversed by 2-APB and KN93.
HG-induced apoptosis in RF/6A cells depends on Ca2+ entry and CaMKII activation, leading to the activation of both Fas-dependent and mitochondria-dependent apoptosis pathways. The CaMKII−JNK−Fas pathway is involved in HG-evoked apoptosis of RECs.
PMCID: PMC3462598  PMID: 23049237
6.  The Role of CaMKII in Calcium-Activated Death Pathways in Bone Marrow B Cells 
Toxicological Sciences  2010;118(1):108-118.
Calcium is an essential signaling molecule in developing B cells, thus altering calcium dynamics represents a potential target for toxicant effects. GW7845, a tyrosine analog and potent peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ agonist, induces rapid mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)–dependent apoptosis in bone marrow B cells. Changes in calcium dynamics are capable of mediating rapid initiation of cell death; therefore, we investigated the contribution of calcium to GW7845-induced apoptosis. Treatment of a nontransformed murine pro/pre-B cell line (BU-11) with GW7845 (40μM) resulted in intracellular calcium release. Multiple features of GW7845-induced cell death were suppressed by the calcium chelator BAPTA, including MAPK activation, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, caspase-3 activation, and DNA fragmentation. A likely mechanism for the calcium-mediated effects is activation of CaMKII, a calcium-dependent MAP4K. We observed that three CaMKII isoforms (β, γ, and δ) are expressed in lymphoid tissues and bone marrow B cells. Treatment with GW7845 increased CaMKII activity. All features of GW7845-induced cell death, except loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, were suppressed by CaMKII inhibitors (KN93 and AIP-II), suggesting the activation of multiple calcium-driven pathways. To determine if CaMKII activation is a common feature of early B cell death following perturbation of Ca2+ flux, we dissected tributyltin (TBT)-induced death signaling. High-dose TBT (1μM) is known to activate calcium-dependent death. TBT induced rapid apoptosis that was associated with intracellular calcium release, CaMKII activation and MAPK activation, and was inhibited by AIP-II. Thus, we show that early B cells are susceptible to calcium-triggered cell death through a CaMKII/MAPK-dependent pathway.
PMCID: PMC2955217  PMID: 20810541
bone marrow; B cells; CaMKII; apoptosis; MAPK
7.  Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II links ER stress with Fas and mitochondrial apoptosis pathways 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(10):2925-2941.
ER stress–induced apoptosis is implicated in various pathological conditions, but the mechanisms linking ER stress–mediated signaling to downstream apoptotic pathways remain unclear. Using human and mouse cell culture and in vivo mouse models of ER stress–induced apoptosis, we have shown that cytosolic calcium resulting from ER stress induces expression of the Fas death receptor through a pathway involving calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIγ (CaMKIIγ) and JNK. Remarkably, CaMKIIγ was also responsible for processes involved in mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis, including release of mitochondrial cytochrome c and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. CaMKII-dependent apoptosis was also observed in a number of cultured human and mouse cells relevant to ER stress–induced pathology, including cultured macrophages, endothelial cells, and neuronal cells subjected to proapoptotic ER stress. Moreover, WT mice subjected to systemic ER stress showed evidence of macrophage mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis, renal epithelial cell apoptosis, and renal dysfunction, and these effects were markedly reduced in CaMKIIγ-deficient mice. These data support an integrated model in which CaMKII serves as a unifying link between ER stress and the Fas and mitochondrial apoptotic pathways. Our study also revealed what we believe to be a novel proapoptotic function for CaMKII, namely, promotion of mitochondrial calcium uptake. These findings raise the possibility that CaMKII inhibitors could be useful in preventing apoptosis in pathological settings involving ER stress–induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2752072  PMID: 19741297
8.  Cardioprotection by CaMKII-δB Is Mediated by Phosphorylation of HSF1 and Subsequent Expression of Inducible HSP70 
Circulation research  2009;106(1):102.
Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is a multifunctional kinase involved in vital cellular processes such as Ca2+ handling and cell fate regulation. In mammalian heart, two primary CaMKII isoforms, δB and δC, localize in nuclear and cytosolic compartments, respectively. Although previous studies have established an essential role of CaMKII-δC in cardiomyocyte apoptosis, the functional role of the more abundant isoform, CaMKII-δB, remains elusive.
Here we determined the potential role of CaMKII-δB in regulating cardiomyocyte viability and explored the underlying mechanism.
Methods and Results
In cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes, the expression of CaMKII-δB and CaMKII-δC was inversely regulated in response to H2O2-induced oxidative stress with a profound reduction of the former and an increase of the later. Similarly, in vivo ischemia/repefusion (IR) led to an opposite regulation of these CaMKII isoforms in a rat myocardial IR model. Notably, overexpression of CaMKII-δB protected cardiomyocytes against oxidative stress-, hypoxia- and angiotensin II-induced apoptosis, whereas overexpression of its cytosolic counterpart promoted apoptosis. Using cDNA microarray, real time-PCR and Western blotting, we demonstrated that overexpression of CaMKII-δB but not CaMKII-δC elevated expression of heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) family members, including inducible HSP70 (iHSP70) and its homologous (Hst70). Moreover, overexpression of CaMKII-δB led to phosphorylation and activation of heat shock factor 1 (HSF1), the primary transcription factor responsible for HSP70 gene regulation. Importantly, gene silencing of iHSP70, but not Hst70, abolished CaMKII-δB-mediated protective effect, indicating that only iHSP70 was required for CaMKII-δB elicited anti-apoptotic signaling.
We conclude that cardiac CaMKII-δB and CaMKII-δC were inversely regulated in response to oxidative stress and IR injury, and that in contrast to CaMKII-δC, CaMKII-δB serves as a potent suppressor of cardiomyocyte apoptosis triggered by multiple death-inducing stimuli via phosphorylation of HSF1 and subsequent induction of iHSP70, marking both CaMKII-δ isoforms as promising therapeutic targets for the treatment of ischemic heart disease.
PMCID: PMC2815328  PMID: 19910575
CaMKII isoforms; CaMKII-δB; oxidative stress; hypoxia; cardiomyocyte apoptosis; iHSP70; HSF1
9.  Role of activated CaMKII in abnormal calcium homeostasis and INa remodeling after myocardial infarction: Insights from mathematical modeling 
Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II is a multifunctional serine/threonine kinase with diverse cardiac roles including regulation of excitation contraction, transcription, and apoptosis. Dynamic regulation of CaMKII activity occurs in cardiac disease and is linked to specific disease phenotypes through its effects on ion channels, transporters, transcription and cell death pathways. Recent mathematical models of the cardiomyocyte have incorporated limited elements of CaMKII signaling to advance our understanding of how CaMKII regulates cardiac contractility and excitability. Given the importance of CaMKII in cardiac disease, it is imperative that computer models evolve to capture the dynamic range of CaMKII activity. In this study, using mathematical modeling combined with biochemical and imaging techniques, we test the hypothesis that CaMKII signaling in the canine infarct border zone (BZ) contributes to impaired calcium homeostasis and electrical remodeling. We report that the level of CaMKII autophosphorylation is significantly increased in the BZ region. Computer simulations using an updated mathematical model of CaMKII signaling reproduce abnormal Ca2+ transients and action potentials characteristic of the BZ. Our simulations show that CaMKII hyperactivity contributes to abnormal Ca2+ homeostasis and reduced action potential upstroke velocity due to effects on INa gating kinetics. In conclusion, we present a new mathematical tool for studying effects of CaMKII signaling on cardiac excitability and contractility over a dynamic range of kinase activities. Our experimental and theoretical findings establish abnormal CaMKII signaling as an important component of remodeling in the canine BZ.
PMCID: PMC2587155  PMID: 18639555
Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II; myocardial infarction; calcium handling; mathematical modeling; arrhythmia
10.  CaMKII Is Essential for the Function of the Enteric Nervous System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e44426.
Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases (CaMKs) are major downstream mediators of neuronal calcium signaling that regulate multiple neuronal functions. CaMKII, one of the key CaMKs, plays a significant role in mediating cellular responses to external signaling molecules. Although calcium signaling plays an essential role in the enteric nervous system (ENS), the role of CaMKII in neurogenic intestinal function has not been determined. In this study, we investigated the function and expression pattern of CaMKII in the ENS across several mammalian species.
Methodology/Principal Findings
CaMKII expression was characterized by immunofluorescence analyses and Western Blot. CaMKII function was examined by intracellular recordings and by assays of colonic contractile activity. Immunoreactivity for CaMKII was detected in the ENS of guinea pig, mouse, rat and human preparations. In guinea pig ENS, CaMKII immunoreactivity was enriched in both nitric oxide synthase (NOS)- and calretinin-containing myenteric plexus neurons and non-cholinergic secretomotor/vasodilator neurons in the submucosal plexus. CaMKII immunoreactivity was also expressed in both cholinergic and non-cholinergic neurons in the ENS of mouse, rat and human. The selective CaMKII inhibitor, KN-62, suppressed stimulus-evoked purinergic slow EPSPs and ATP-induced slow EPSP-like response in guinea pig submucosal plexus, suggesting that CaMKII activity is required for some metabotropic synaptic transmissions in the ENS. More importantly, KN-62 significantly suppressed tetrodotoxin-induced contractile response in mouse colon, which suggests that CaMKII activity is a major determinant of the tonic neurogenic inhibition of this tissue.
ENS neurons across multiple mammalian species express CaMKII. CaMKII signaling constitutes an important molecular mechanism for controlling intestinal motility and secretion by regulating the excitability of musculomotor and secretomotor neurons. These findings revealed a fundamental role of CaMKII in the ENS and provide clues for the treatment of intestinal dysfunctions.
PMCID: PMC3432132  PMID: 22952977
11.  Linkage of β1-adrenergic stimulation to apoptotic heart cell death through protein kinase A–independent activation of Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;111(5):617-625.
β1-adrenergic receptor (β1AR) stimulation activates the classic cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway to regulate vital cellular processes from the change of gene expression to the control of metabolism, muscle contraction, and cell apoptosis. Here we show that sustained β1AR stimulation promotes cardiac myocyte apoptosis by activation of Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII), independently of PKA signaling. β1AR-induced apoptosis is resistant to inhibition of PKA by a specific peptide inhibitor, PKI14-22, or an inactive cAMP analogue, Rp-8-CPT-cAMPS. In contrast, the β1AR proapoptotic effect is associated with non–PKA-dependent increases in intracellular Ca2+ and CaMKII activity. Blocking the L-type Ca2+ channel, buffering intracellular Ca2+, or inhibiting CaMKII activity fully protects cardiac myocytes against β1AR-induced apoptosis, and overexpressing a cardiac CaMKII isoform, CaMKII-δC, markedly exaggerates the β1AR apoptotic effect. These findings indicate that CaMKII constitutes a novel PKA-independent linkage of β1AR stimulation to cardiomyocyte apoptosis that has been implicated in the overall process of chronic heart failure.
PMCID: PMC151893  PMID: 12618516
12.  MyD88 mediated inflammatory signaling leads to CaMKII oxidation, cardiac hypertrophy and death after myocardial infarction. 
The toll-like receptors (TLR) and myocardial infarction (MI) promote NF-κB-dependent inflammatory transcription and oxidative injury in myocardium. The multifunctional Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is activated by oxidation and contributes to NF-κB-dependent transcription, myocardial hypertrophy and post-MI death. The myeloid differentiation protein 88 (MyD88) is an adapter protein critical for many TLR functions, but downstream targets for TLR/MyD88 signaling in MI are not well understood. We asked if CaMKII and TLR/MyD88 pathways are interconnected and if TLR/MyD88 contributes to adverse outcomes after MI. Here we show that TLR-4 activation by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces CaMKII oxidation (ox-CaMKII) in cardiomyocytes. MI enhances ox-CaMKII in wild type (WT) hearts but not in MyD88−/− hearts that are defective in MyD88-dependent TLR signaling. In post-MI WT hearts expression of pro-inflammatory genes TNF-α (Tnfa), complement factor B (Cfb), myocyte death and fibrosis were significatly increased, but increases were significantly less in MyD88−/− hearts after MI. MyD88−/− cardiomyocytes were defective in NF-κB activation by LPS but not by the MyD88-independent TLR agonist poly(I:C). In contrast, TNF-α induced Cfb gene expression was not deficient in MyD88−/− cardiomyocytes. Several hypertrophy marker genes were upregulated in both WT and MyD88−/− hearts after MI, but Acta1 was significantly attenuated in MyD88−/− hearts, suggesting that MyD88 selectively affects expression of hypertrophic genes. Post-MI cardiac hypertrophy, inflammation, apoptosis, ox-CaMKII expression and mortality were significantly reduced in MyD88−/− compared to WT littermates. These data suggest that MyD88 contributes to CaMKII oxidation and is important for adverse hypertrophic and inflammatory responses to LPS and MI.
PMCID: PMC3327770  PMID: 22326848
Myocardial infarction; Hypertrophy; Inflammation; Oxidant stress; CaMKII; Innate Immunity
13.  Activation-triggered subunit exchange between CaMKII holoenzymes facilitates the spread of kinase activity 
eLife  2014;3:e01610.
The activation of the dodecameric Ca2+/calmodulin dependent kinase II (CaMKII) holoenzyme is critical for memory formation. We now report that CaMKII has a remarkable property, which is that activation of the holoenzyme triggers the exchange of subunits between holoenzymes, including unactivated ones, enabling the calcium-independent phosphorylation of new subunits. We show, using a single-molecule TIRF microscopy technique, that the exchange process is triggered by the activation of CaMKII, and that exchange is modulated by phosphorylation of two residues in the calmodulin-binding segment, Thr 305 and Thr 306. Based on these results, and on the analysis of molecular dynamics simulations, we suggest that the phosphorylated regulatory segment of CaMKII interacts with the central hub of the holoenzyme and weakens its integrity, thereby promoting exchange. Our results have implications for an earlier idea that subunit exchange in CaMKII may have relevance for information storage resulting from brief coincident stimuli during neuronal signaling.
eLife digest
How do fleeting signals passing through the neurons of our brains become memories that can last for years or even decades? An enzyme called CaMKII is known to have an important role in the formation of memories. CaMKII adds phosphate groups to proteins—a process that is called phosphorylation—and is itself activated when calcium levels increase inside the neurons where the enzyme is found.
Individual CaMKII proteins bind together in groups of 12 to form a ‘holoenzyme’. When one of the 12 subunits is activated by calcium, it can phosphorylate the other subunits in the same holoenzyme. Once this happens, the activation of CaMKII can continue after the initial rise in calcium has ceased, and this effect is thought to be involved in the formation of long-term memories.
30 years ago, Francis Crick—famous for his role in the discovery of the double helix—proposed that memory formation might involve ‘memory-storage molecules’ passing an activated state to unactivated molecules, and John Lisman later suggested that CaMKII could fulfil this role by swapping subunits of holoenzymes between activated and unactivated ones. Now, Stratton, Lee et al. have tested whether CaMKII can exchange subunits by using advanced microscopy to track single molecules of CaMKII labelled with fluorescent markers. This revealed that activation can cause CaMKII subunits repeatedly to mix between holoenzymes—and this only happens once a first holoenzyme has been activated.
Subunits of CaMKII join together via a central ‘hub’ region, but when a subunit is activated, the phosphorylated segment may interact with the hub. This weakens the connections between the subunits, thereby making it easier for subunits to exchange between holoenzymes. This process provides a mechanism by which a level of activated CaMKII can be maintained, even if some subunits become degraded and long after the disappearance of the initial activation signal.
PMCID: PMC3901001  PMID: 24473075
CaMKII; subunit exchange; spread of activation state; single-molecule; E. coli
14.  Ethanol Inhibition of Recombinant NMDA Receptors Is Not Altered by Co-Expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2008;42(5):425-432.
Previous studies have shown that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is an important target for the actions of ethanol in the brain. NMDA receptors are glutamate-activated ion channels that are highly expressed in neurons. They are activated during periods of significant glutamatergic synaptic activity and are an important source of the signaling molecule calcium in the post-synaptic spine. Alterations in the function of NMDA receptors by drugs or disease are associated with deficits in motor, sensory and cognitive processes of the brain. Acutely, ethanol inhibits ion flow through NMDA receptors while sustained exposure to ethanol can induce compensatory changes in the density and localization of the receptor. Defining factors that govern the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors is an important step in how an individual responds to ethanol. In the present study, we investigated the effect of calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) on the ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. CaMKII is a major constituent of the post-synaptic density and is critically involved in various forms of learning and memory. NMDA receptor subunits were transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells (HEK 293) along with CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β tagged with the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Whole cell currents were elicited by brief exposures to glutamate and were measured using patchclamp electrophysiology. Neither CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β had any significant effect on the ethanol inhibition of NR1/2A or NR1/2B receptors. Ethanol inhibition was also unaltered by deletion of CaMKII binding domains in NR1 or NR2 subunits or by phospho-site mutants that mimic or occlude CaMKII phosphorylation. Chronic treatment of cortical neurons with ethanol had no significant effect on the expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β. The results of this study suggest that CaMKII is not involved in regulating the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC2629600  PMID: 18562151
electrophysiology; alcohol; ion channel; kinase; phosphorylation
15.  A dynamic pathway for calcium-independent activation of CaMKII by methionine oxidation 
Cell  2008;133(3):462-474.
Calcium/calmodulin (Ca2+/CaM)-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) couples increases in cellular Ca2+ to fundamental responses in excitable cells. CaMKII was identified over twenty years ago by activation dependence on Ca2+/CaM, but recent evidence shows CaMKII activity is also enhanced by pro-oxidant conditions. Here we show that oxidation of paired regulatory domain methionine residues sustains CaMKII activity in the absence of Ca2+/CaM. CaMKII is activated by angiotensin II (AngII) induced oxidation, leading to apoptosis in cardiomyocytes, both in vitro and in vivo. CaMKII oxidation is reversed by methionine sulfoxide reductase A (MsrA), and MsrA−/− mice show exaggerated CaMKII oxidation and myocardial apoptosis, impaired cardiac function, and increased mortality after myocardial infarction. Our data demonstrate a novel, dynamic mechanism for CaMKII activation by oxidation and highlight the critical importance of oxidation-dependent CaMKII activation to AngII and ischemic myocardial apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2435269  PMID: 18455987
16.  Estrogen-induced Signaling Attenuates Soluble Aβ Peptide-Mediated Dysfunction of Pathways in Synaptic Plasticity 
Brain research  2011;1383:1-12.
Neuromodulation of synaptic plasticity by 17β-estradiol (E2) is thought to influence information processing and storage in the cortex and hippocampus. Because E2 rapidly affects cortical memory and synaptic plasticity, we examined its effects on phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR) [AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunit 1 (GluR1 subunit)], all of which are important for the induction and maintenance of synaptic plasticity and memory. Acute E2 treatment resulted in an increased temporal and spatial phosphorylation pattern of CaMKII, ERK, and AMPAR (GluR1 subunit). By using inhibitors, we were able to attribute GluR1 phosphorylation to CaMKII at serine 831, and we also found that E2 treatment increased GluR1 insertion into the surface membrane. Because soluble amyloid-beta (Aβ) oligomers inhibit CaMKII and ERK activation, which is necessary for synaptic plasticity, we also tested E2’s ability to ameliorate Aβ-induced dysfunction of synaptic plasticity. We found that estrogen treatment in neuronal culture, slice culture, and in vivo, ameliorated Aβ oligomer-induced inhibition of CaMKII, ERK, and AMPAR phosphorylation, and also ameliorated the Aβ oligomer-induced reduction of dendritic spine density in a CaMKII-dependent manner. These phosphorylation events are correlated with the early stage of inhibitory avoidance learning, and our data show that E2 improved inhibitory avoidance memory deficits in animals treated with soluble Aβ oligomers. This study identifies E2-induced signaling that attenuates soluble Aβ peptide-mediated dysfunction of pathways in synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3065978  PMID: 21262203
17β-estradiol; CaMKII; ERK; GluR1; synaptic plasticity
17.  Dynamic Kv4.3–CaMKII unit in heart: an intrinsic negative regulator for CaMKII activation 
European Heart Journal  2010;32(3):305-315.
Reduction of transient outward current (Ito) and excessive activation of Ca2+/Calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII) are general features of ventricular myocytes in heart failure. We hypothesize that alterations of Ito directly regulate CaMKII activation in cardiomyocytes.
Methods and results
A dynamic coupling of Ito channel subunit Kv4.3 and inactive CaMKII was discovered in cardiomyocytes with the membrane predominant distribution by co-immunoprecipitation and fluorescence resonance energy transfer techniques. CaMKII dissociation from Kv4.3–CaMKII units caused a significant increase in CaMKII autophosphorylation and L-type calcium current (ICa) facilitation. ICa facilitation was blunted by the compartmental Ca2+ chelator BAPTA but unaffected by bulk Ca2+ chelator EGTA, implicating membrane-localized CaMKII. Kv4.3 overexpression reduced basal CaMKII autophosphorylation in myocytes and eliminated Ca2+-induced CaMKII activation. Kv4.3 blocks CaMKII activation by binding to the calmodulin binding sites, whereas Kv4.3 uncoupling releases these sites and leads to a substantial CaMKII activation.
Our results uncovered an important mechanism that regulates CaMKII activation in the heart and implicate Ito channel alteration in pathological CaMKII activation.
PMCID: PMC3031792  PMID: 21148163
Heart failure; CaMKII; Ito channel; Kv4.3; Myocytes
18.  Metabolic activation of CaMKII by Coenzyme A 
Molecular cell  2013;52(3):325-339.
Active metabolism regulates oocyte cell death via calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) mediated phosphorylation of caspase-2, but the link between metabolic activity and CaMKII is poorly understood. Here we identify coenzyme A (CoA) as the key metabolic signal that inhibits Xenopus laevis oocyte apoptosis, in a novel mechanism of CaMKII activation. We found that CoA directly binds to the CaMKII regulatory domain in the absence of Ca2+ to activate CaMKII in a calmodulin-dependent manner. Furthermore, we show that CoA inhibits apoptosis not only in X. laevis oocytes, but also in Murine oocytes. These findings uncover a novel mechanism of CaMKII regulation by metabolism and further highlight the importance of metabolism in preserving oocyte viability.
PMCID: PMC3967247  PMID: 24095281
19.  Nitric Oxide-Dependent Activation of CaMKII Increases Diastolic Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium Release in Cardiac Myocytes in Response to Adrenergic Stimulation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87495.
Spontaneous calcium waves in cardiac myocytes are caused by diastolic sarcoplasmic reticulum release (SR Ca2+ leak) through ryanodine receptors. Beta-adrenergic (β-AR) tone is known to increase this leak through the activation of Ca-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMKII) and the subsequent phosphorylation of the ryanodine receptor. When β-AR drive is chronic, as observed in heart failure, this CaMKII-dependent effect is exaggerated and becomes potentially arrhythmogenic. Recent evidence has indicated that CaMKII activation can be regulated by cellular oxidizing agents, such as reactive oxygen species. Here, we investigate how the cellular second messenger, nitric oxide, mediates CaMKII activity downstream of the adrenergic signaling cascade and promotes the generation of arrhythmogenic spontaneous Ca2+ waves in intact cardiomyocytes. Both SCaWs and SR Ca2+ leak were measured in intact rabbit and mouse ventricular myocytes loaded with the Ca-dependent fluorescent dye, fluo-4. CaMKII activity in vitro and immunoblotting for phosphorylated residues on CaMKII, nitric oxide synthase, and Akt were measured to confirm activity of these enzymes as part of the adrenergic cascade. We demonstrate that stimulation of the β-AR pathway by isoproterenol increased the CaMKII-dependent SR Ca2+ leak. This increased leak was prevented by inhibition of nitric oxide synthase 1 but not nitric oxide synthase 3. In ventricular myocytes isolated from wild-type mice, isoproterenol stimulation also increased the CaMKII-dependent leak. Critically, in myocytes isolated from nitric oxide synthase 1 knock-out mice this effect is ablated. We show that isoproterenol stimulation leads to an increase in nitric oxide production, and nitric oxide alone is sufficient to activate CaMKII and increase SR Ca2+ leak. Mechanistically, our data links Akt to nitric oxide synthase 1 activation downstream of β-AR stimulation. Collectively, this evidence supports the hypothesis that CaMKII is regulated by nitric oxide as part of the adrenergic cascade leading to arrhythmogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3911966  PMID: 24498331
20.  CASK regulates CaMKII autophosphorylation in neuronal growth, calcium signaling, and learning 
Calcium (Ca2+)/calmodulin (CaM)-dependent kinase II (CaMKII) activity plays a fundamental role in learning and memory. A key feature of CaMKII in memory formation is its ability to be regulated by autophosphorylation, which switches its activity on and off during synaptic plasticity. The synaptic scaffolding protein CASK (calcium (Ca2+)/calmodulin (CaM) associated serine kinase) is also important for learning and memory, as mutations in CASK result in intellectual disability and neurological defects in humans. We show that in Drosophila larvae, CASK interacts with CaMKII to control neuronal growth and calcium signaling. Furthermore, deletion of the CaMK-like and L27 domains of CASK (CASK β null) or expression of overactive CaMKII (T287D) produced similar effects on synaptic growth and Ca2+ signaling. CASK overexpression rescues the effects of CaMKII overactivity, consistent with the notion that CASK and CaMKII act in a common pathway that controls these neuronal processes. The reduction in Ca2+ signaling observed in the CASK β null mutant caused a decrease in vesicle trafficking at synapses. In addition, the decrease in Ca2+ signaling in CASK mutants was associated with an increase in Ether-à-go-go (EAG) potassium (K+) channel localization to synapses. Reducing EAG restored the decrease in Ca2+ signaling observed in CASK mutants to the level of wildtype, suggesting that CASK regulates Ca2+ signaling via EAG. CASK knockdown reduced both appetitive associative learning and odor evoked Ca2+ responses in Drosophila mushroom bodies, which are the learning centers of Drosophila. Expression of human CASK in Drosophila rescued the effect of CASK deletion on the activity state of CaMKII, suggesting that human CASK may also regulate CaMKII autophosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC3769642  PMID: 24062638
CASK; CaMKII; synaptic function; Drosophila; appetitive learning; calcium imaging; autophosphorylation
21.  Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase II triggers cell membrane injury by inducing complement factor B gene expression in the mouse heart  
Myocardial Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) inhibition improves cardiac function following myocardial infarction (MI), but the CaMKII-dependent pathways that participate in myocardial stress responses are incompletely understood. To address this issue, we sought to determine the transcriptional consequences of myocardial CaMKII inhibition after MI. We performed gene expression profiling in mouse hearts with cardiomyocyte-delimited transgenic expression of either a CaMKII inhibitory peptide (AC3-I) or a scrambled control peptide (AC3-C) following MI. Of the 8,600 mRNAs examined, 156 were substantially modulated by MI, and nearly half of these showed markedly altered responses to MI with CaMKII inhibition. CaMKII inhibition substantially reduced the MI-triggered upregulation of a constellation of proinflammatory genes. We studied 1 of these proinflammatory genes, complement factor B (Cfb), in detail, because complement proteins secreted by cells other than cardiomyocytes can induce sarcolemmal injury during MI. CFB protein expression in cardiomyocytes was triggered by CaMKII activation of the NF-κB pathway during both MI and exposure to bacterial endotoxin. CaMKII inhibition suppressed NF-κB activity in vitro and in vivo and reduced Cfb expression and sarcolemmal injury. The Cfb–/– mice were partially protected from the adverse consequences of MI. Our findings demonstrate what we believe is a novel target for CaMKII in myocardial injury and suggest that CaMKII is broadly important for the genetic effects of MI in cardiomyocytes.
PMCID: PMC2662543  PMID: 19273909
22.  On the possible role of ERK, p38 and CaMKII in the regulation of CGRP expression in morphine-tolerant rats 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:68.
The neuropeptide, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has been proposed to be a regulator of the development of morphine analgesic tolerance and thereby could be a target to reduce the induction of this phenomenon under clinical conditions. However, the mechanisms of CGRP regulation are unclear. We investigated here the possible role of the extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), p38 and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) in CGRP regulation following chronic morphine treatment.
A 7-day treatment with morphine (15 μg/day) led to an increase in CGRP contents in the spinal cord dorsal horn (SCDH) and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and this effect was prevented by the inhibition of the ERK, p38 or CaMKII pathway. The phosphorylation/activation of ERK, p38 and CaMKII was enhanced in the SCDH following chronic morphine while in DRG only the phosphorylation of CaMKII was increased. Moreover, our chronic morphine treatment up-regulated neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) levels in the SCDH, an effect blocked by the inhibition of the ERK, p38 or CaMKII pathway. The blockade of nNOS activity also suppressed chronic morphine-induced CGRP increases in the DRG and SCDH. Double immunofluorescence studies revealed that nNOS and CaMKII are co-localized in the SCDH and that CaMKII is activated in CGRP-expressing DRG neurons.
The activation of spinal ERK, p38 and CaMKII, alongside nNOS, is involved in chronic morphine-induced CGRP up-regulation in both the DRG and SCDH. Moreover, the stimulation of CaMKII in the DRG likely directly regulates the expression of CGRP associated with morphine analgesic tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3190348  PMID: 21933441
CGRP; ERK; p38; CaMKII; morphine
23.  CaMKII effects on inotropic but not lusitropic force frequency responses require phospholamban 
Increasing heart rate enhances cardiac contractility (force frequency relationship, FFR) and accelerates cardiac relaxation (frequency-dependent acceleration of relaxation, FDAR). The positive FFR together with FDAR promotes rapid filling and ejection of blood from the left ventricle (LV) at higher heart rates. Recent studies indicate that the multifunctional Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is involved in regulating FFR and FDAR. We used isolated perfused mouse hearts to study the mechanisms of FFR and FDAR in different genetic models, including transgenic myocardial CaMKII inhibition (AC3-I) and phosphalamban knockout (PLN−/−). When the rate was increased from 360 beats/min to 630 beats/min in wild type mouse hearts, the LV developed pressure (LVDP) and the maximum rate of increase in pressure (dP/dt max) increased by 37.6 ± 4.7% and 77.0 ± 8.1%, respectively. However, hearts from AC3-I littermates showed no increase of LVDP and a relatively modest (20.4 ± 3.9 %) increase in dP/dt max. PLN−/− hearts had a negative FFR, and myocardial AC3-I expression did not change the FFR in PLN−/− mice. PLN−/− mouse hearts did not exhibit FDAR, while PLN−/−mice with myocardial AC3-I expression showed further frequency dependent reductions in cardiac relaxation, suggesting CaMKII targets in addition to PLN were critical to myocardial relaxation. We incubated a constitutively active form of CaMKII with chemically-skinned myocardium and found that several myofilament proteins were phosphorylated by CaMKII. However, CaMKII did not affect myofilament calcium sensitivity. Our study shows that CaMKII plays an important role in modulating FFR and FDAR in murine hearts and suggest that PLN is a critical target for CaMKII effects on FFR, while CaMKII effects on FDAR partially require PLN-alternative targets.
PMCID: PMC3936404  PMID: 22796260
CaM kinase II; force-frequency relation; frequency-dependent acceleration of relaxation; phospholamban
24.  CaMKII: linking heart failure and arrhythmias 
Circulation research  2012;110(12):1661-1677.
Understanding relationships between heart failure and arrhythmias, important causes of suffering and sudden death, remains an unmet goal for biomedical researchers and physicians. Evidence assembled over the last decade supports a view that activation of the multifunctional Ca2+ and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) favors myocardial dysfunction and cell membrane electrical instability. CaMKII activation follows increases in intracellular Ca2+ or oxidation, upstream signals with the capacity to transition CaMKII into a Ca2+ and calmodulin-independeant, constitutively active enzyme. Constitutively active CaMKII appears poised to participate in disease pathways by catalyzing the phosphorylation of classes of protein targets important for excitation-contraction coupling and cell survival, including ion channels and Ca2+ homeostatic proteins, and transcription factors that drive hypertrophic and inflammatory gene expression. This rich diversity of downstream targets helps to explain the potential for CaMKII to simultaneously affect mechanical and electrical properties of heart muscle cells. Proof of concept studies from a growing number of investigators show that CaMKII inhibition is beneficial for improving myocardial performance and reducing arrhythmias. Here we review the molecular physiology of CaMKII, discuss CaMKII actions at key cellular targets and results of animal models of myocardial hypertrophy, dysfunction and arrhythmias that suggest CaMKII inhibition may benefit myocardial function while reducing arrhythmias.
PMCID: PMC3789535  PMID: 22679140
CaMKII; Arrhythmias; Heart Failure; Ion channels; Remodeling
25.  β-Arrestin–dependent activation of Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II after β1–adrenergic receptor stimulation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;189(3):573-587.
β-Arrestin functions as a scaffold for CaMKII and the Rap guanine nucleotide exchange factor Epac to regulate signaling from β1-ARs.
Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) plays an important role in cardiac contractility and the development of heart failure. Although stimulation of β1–adrenergic receptors (ARs) leads to an increase in CaMKII activity, the molecular mechanism by which β1-ARs activate CaMKII is not completely understood. In this study, we show the requirement for the β1-AR regulatory protein β-arrestin as a scaffold for both CaMKII and Epac (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP). Stimulation of β1-ARs induces the formation of a β-arrestin–CaMKII–Epac1 complex, allowing its recruitment to the plasma membrane, whereby interaction with cAMP leads to CaMKII activation. β-Arrestin binding to the carboxyl-terminal tail of β1-ARs promotes a conformational change within β-arrestin that allows CaMKII and Epac to remain in a stable complex with the receptor. The essential role for β-arrestin and identification of the molecular mechanism by which only β1-ARs and not β2-ARs activate CaMKII significantly advances our understanding of this important cellular pathway.
PMCID: PMC2867304  PMID: 20421423

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