Dynamic force generation in cardiac muscle, which determines cardiac pumping activity, depends on both the number of sarcomeric cross-bridges and on their cycling kinetics. The Frank–Starling mechanism dictates that cardiac force development increases with increasing cardiac muscle length (corresponding to increased ventricular volume). It is, however, unclear to what extent this increase in cardiac muscle length affects the rate of cross-bridge cycling. Previous studies using permeabilized cardiac preparations, sub-physiological temperatures, or both have obtained conflicting results. Here, we developed a protocol that allowed us to reliably and reproducibly measure the rate of tension redevelopment (ktr; which depends on the rate of cross-bridge cycling) in intact trabeculae at body temperature. Using K+ contractures to induce a tonic level of force, we showed the ktr was slower in rabbit muscle (which contains predominantly β myosin) than in rat muscle (which contains predominantly α myosin). Analyses of ktr in rat muscle at optimal length (Lopt) and 90% of optimal length (L90) revealed that ktr was significantly slower at Lopt (27.7 ± 3.3 and 27.8 ± 3.0 s−1 in duplicate analyses) than at L90 (45.1 ± 7.6 and 47.5 ± 9.2 s−1). We therefore show that ktr can be measured in intact rat and rabbit cardiac trabeculae, and that the ktr decreases when muscles are stretched to their optimal length under near-physiological conditions, indicating that the Frank–Starling mechanism not only increases force but also affects cross-bridge cycling kinetics.

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Published in The Journal of General Physiology, v. 141, no. 1, p. 133-139.

© 2013 Milani-Nejad et al.

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