Isoform-specific stimulation of cardiac Na/K pumps by nanomolar concentrations of glycosides

Junyuan Gao, Randy S. Wymore, Yongli Wang, Glenn R. Gaudette, Irvin B. Krukenkamp, Ira S. Cohen, Richard T. Mathias

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114 Scopus citations


It is well-known that micromolar to millimolar concentrations of cardiac glycosides inhibit Na/K pump activity, however, some early reports suggested nanomolar concentrations of these glycosides stimulate activity. These early reports were based on indirect measurements in multicellular preparations, hence, there was some uncertainty whether ion accumulation/depletion rather than pump stimulation caused the observations. Here, we utilize the whole-cell patch-clamp technique on isolated cardiac myocytes to directly measure Na/K pump current (Ip) in conditions that minimize the possibility of ion accumulation/depletion causing the observed effects. In guinea pig ventricular myocytes, nanomolar concentrations of dihydro-ouabain (DHO) caused an outward current that appeared to be due to stimulation of Ip because of the following: (1) it was absent in 0 mM [K+]o, as was Ip; (2) it was absent in 0 mM [Na+]i, as was Ip; (3) at reduced [Na+]i, the outward current was reduced in proportion to the reduction in Ip; (4) it was eliminated by intracellular vanadate, as was Ip. Our previous work suggested guinea pig ventricular myocytes coexpress the α-1- and α2-isoforms of the Na/K pumps. The stimulation of Ip appears to be through stimulation of the high glycoside affinity α2-isoform and not the α1-isoform because of the following: (1) regulatory signals that specifically increased activity of the α2 -isoform increased the amplitude of the stimulation; (2) regulatory signals that specifically altered the activity of the α1-isoform did not affect the stimulation; (3) changes in [K+]o that affected activity of the α1-isoform, but not the α2-isoform, did not affect the stimulation; (4) myocytes from one group of guinea pigs expressed the α1-isoform but not the α2-isoform, and these myocytes did not show the stimulation. At 10 nM DHO, total Ip increased by 35 ± 10% (mean ± SD, n = 18). If one accepts the hypothesis that this increase is due to stimulation ofjust the α2,-isoform, then activity of the α2-isoform increased by 107 ± 30%. In the guinea pig myocytes, nanomolar myocytes, rianomolar ouabain as well as DHO stimulated the α2-isoform, but both the stimulatory and inhibitory concentrations of ouabain were ∼10-fold lower than those for DHO. Stimulation of Ip by nanomolar DHO was observed in canine atrial and ventricular myocytes, which express the α1- and α3-isoforms ofthe Na/K pumps, suggesting the other high glycoside affinity isoform (the α3-isoform) also was stimulated by nanomolar concentrations of DHO. Human atrial and ventricular myocytes express all three isoforms, but isoform affinity for glycosides is too similar to separate their activity. Nevertheless, nanomolar DHO caused a stimulation of Ip that was very similar to that seen in other species. Thus, in all species studied, nanomolar DHO caused stimulation of Ip, and where the contributions of the high glycoside affinity α2-and α3-isoforms could be separated from that of the α1-isoform, it was only the high glycoside affinity isoform that was stimulated. These observations support early reports that nanomolar concentrations of glycosides stimulate Na/K pump activity, and suggest a novel mechanism of isoform-specific regulation of Ip in heart by nanomolar concentrations of endogenous ouabain-like molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-312
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Na/KATPase


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