A role for myosin phosphorylation in modulating normal cardiac function has long been suspected, and we hypothesized that changing the phosphorylation status of a cardiac myosin light chain might alter cardiac function in the whole animal. To test this directly, transgenic mice were created in which three potentially phosphorylatable serines in the ventricular isoform of the regulatory myosin light chain were mutated to alanines. Lines were obtained in which replacement of the endogenous species in the ventricle with the nonphosphorylatable, transgenically encoded protein was essentially complete. The mice show a spectrum of cardiovascular changes. As previously observed in skeletal muscle, Ca(2+) sensitivity of force development was dependent upon the phosphorylation status of the regulatory light chain. Structural abnormalities were detected by both gross histology and transmission electron microscopic analyses. Mature animals showed both atrial hypertrophy and dilatation. Echocardiographic analysis revealed that as a result of chamber enlargement, severe tricuspid valve insufficiency resulted in a detectable regurgitation jet. We conclude that regulated phosphorylation of the regulatory myosin light chains appears to play an important role in maintaining normal cardiac function over the lifetime of the animal.
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