Troponin T (TnT) and troponin I (TnI) are two evolutionarily and functionally linked subunits of the troponin complex that regulates striated muscle contraction. We previously reported a single amino acid substitution in the highly conserved TnT-binding helix of cardiac TnI (cTnI) in wild turkey hearts in concurrence with an abnormally spliced myopathic cardiac TnT (cTnT) (Biesiadecki, B. J., Schneider, K. L., Yu, Z. B., Chong, S. M., and Jin, J. P. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279, 13825-13832). To investigate the functional effect of this cTnI mutation and its potential value in compensating for the cTnT abnormality, we developed transgenic mice expressing the mutant cTnI (K118C) in the heart with or without the deletion of the endogenous cTnI gene to mimic the homozygote and heterozygote of wild turkeys. Double and triple transgenic mice were created by crossing the cTnI-K118C lines with transgenic mice overexpressing the myopathic cTnT (exon 7 deletion). Functional studies of ex vivo working hearts found that cTnI-K118C alone had a dominantly negative effect on diastolic function and blunted the inotropic responses of cardiac muscle to beta-adrenergic stimuli without abolishing the protein kinase A-dependent phosphorylation of cTnI. When co-expressed with the cTnT mutation, cTnI-K118C corrected the significant depression of systolic function caused by cTnT exon 7 deletion, and the co-existence of exon 7-deleted cTnT minimized the diastolic abnormality of cTnI-K118C. Characterization of this naturally selected pair of mutually rescuing mutations demonstrated that TnI-TnT interaction is a critical link in the Ca(2+) signaling and beta-adrenergic regulation in cardiac muscle, suggesting a potential target for the treatment of troponin cardiomyopathies and heart failure.
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