Phosphoinositide-3-kinase/akt - dependent signaling is required for maintenance of [Ca2+]i,ICa, and Ca2+ transients in HL-1 cardiomyocytes
© Graves et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
Received: 19 March 2012
Accepted: 20 June 2012
Published: 20 June 2012
The phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3K/Akt) dependent signaling pathway plays an important role in cardiac function, specifically cardiac contractility. We have reported that sepsis decreases myocardial Akt activation, which correlates with cardiac dysfunction in sepsis. We also reported that preventing sepsis induced changes in myocardial Akt activation ameliorates cardiovascular dysfunction. In this study we investigated the role of PI3K/Akt on cardiomyocyte function by examining the role of PI3K/Akt-dependent signaling on [Ca2+]i, Ca2+ transients and membrane Ca2+ current, ICa, in cultured murine HL-1 cardiomyocytes. LY294002 (1–20 μM), a specific PI3K inhibitor, dramatically decreased HL-1 [Ca2+]i, Ca2+ transients and ICa. We also examined the effect of PI3K isoform specific inhibitors, i.e. α (PI3-kinase α inhibitor 2; 2–8 nM); β (TGX-221; 100 nM) and γ (AS-252424; 100 nM), to determine the contribution of specific isoforms to HL-1 [Ca2+]i regulation. Pharmacologic inhibition of each of the individual PI3K isoforms significantly decreased [Ca2+]i, and inhibited Ca2+ transients. Triciribine (1–20 μM), which inhibits AKT downstream of the PI3K pathway, also inhibited [Ca2+]i, and Ca2+ transients and ICa. We conclude that the PI3K/Akt pathway is required for normal maintenance of [Ca2+]i in HL-1 cardiomyocytes. Thus, myocardial PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling sustains [Ca2+]i required for excitation-contraction coupling in cardiomyoctyes.
KeywordsCalcium Fura-2 Phosphoinositide-3-kinase/Akt HL-1 cardiomyocytes Whole-cell voltage clamp Electrophysiology
The phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3K) are a conserved family of signal transduction enzymes that are involved in regulating cellular proliferation and survival [1, 2]. The PI3Ks and the downstream serine/threonine kinase Akt (also known as protein kinase B; PKB) regulate cellular activation, inflammatory responses, chemotaxis and apoptosis . We  and others  have demonstrated that activation of PI3K/Akt dependent signaling attenuates the pro-inflammatory phenotype and increases survival outcome in sepsis. We have also reported that sepsis decreases myocardial Akt activation , which correlates with cardiac dysfunction in sepsis. In the same report, we demonstrated that preventing sepsis-induced changes in myocardial Akt activation correlates with prevention of cardiac dysfunction .
PI3K/Akt/PKB may play a role in cardiomyocyte calcium regulation; however, the precise mechanisms by which this occurs have not been fully elucidated. Yano and colleagues employed a transgenic mouse model over-expressing PI3K p110α in the heart , which resulted in increased left ventricular pressure, increased levels of L-type Ca2+ channels, ryanodine receptors and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase 2a . In a subsequent report, Lu et al. demonstrated that genetic ablation of PI3K p110α resulted in reduced numbers of voltage-dependent L-type Ca2+ channels in isolated cardiomyocytes, reduced inward Ca2+ current and a defect in contractile function . Taken together the results above indicate that PI3k/Akt signaling plays a critical role in normal cardiac function and in maintaining cardiac function in sepsis [5–7]. This signaling most likely involves regulation of cellular calcium.
We conducted the present study to determine whether direct inhibition of the PI3K, PI3K-specific isoforms or Akt-PKB signaling in HL-1 cardiomyocytes alters calcium regulation. HL-1 is a proliferating atrial myocyte cell line established from a subcutaneous tumor of AT-1 cells that, in turn, were derived from the atria of a mouse transgenic for the simian virus 40 large T antigen under control of the atrial natriuretic factor promoter [8, 9]. These cells display spontaneous contractions in tissue culture, oscillations of [Ca2+i, and express functional L- and T-type Ca2+ channels . HL-1 cells also express the PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling pathway, which mediates interleukin-18 induced cellular hypertrophy . Herein, we report that inhibitors of PI3K/Akt-PKB decrease [Ca2+, diminish Ca2+ transients and inhibit membrane Ca2+ currents, ICa, in these murine cardiomyocytes. These data indicate that PI3K/Akt-PKB is required for normal cardiomyocyte calcium regulation.
HL-1 cell culture
HL-1 atrial cardiomyocytes were a gift of Dr. William Claycomb (Louisiana State University Medical Center). They were grown in 5% CO2 at 37 °C in Claycomb media (Sigma) supplemented with batch specific 10% FBS (Sigma), 100 U/ml:100 μg/ml Penicillin/Streptomycin (Invitrogen), 0.1 mM norepinephrine (Sigma) and 2 mM L-glutamine (Invitrogen). Before culturing cells, flasks were treated overnight with 0.02% Bacto© gelatin (Fisher Scientific):0.5% Fibronectin (Invitrogen). For electrophysiologic or calcium measurements cells were plated at a density of 3X105 cells/35-mm culture dish on glass cover slips (12 mm diameter), which had been flamed briefly to enhance coating and then transferred to a 35-mm culture dish where they were treated with gelatin/fibronectin overnight.
Whole-cell voltage clamp measurements
Cells were grown for 1–2 days on 12-mm diameter glass plastic coverslips, which were transferred to an acrylic chamber (Warner, New Haven, CT) on the stage of an inverted microscope (Olympus IMT-2) equipped with Hoffman modulation contrast optics. Cells were superfused at room temperature with a standard external salt solution. Patch pipettes (3–6 MΩ in the bath solution) were fabricated from glass capillaries (1.1-1.2 mm ID, 0.2 mm wall thickness, non-heparinized micro-hematocrit capillary tubes; Fisher Scientific) with a Brown-Flaming horizontal micropipette puller (P-97, Sutter Instruments, Novato, CA). A micromanipulator (MO-202, Narishige, Tokyo) fixed to the microscope was used to position pipettes. The whole-cell patch configurations were obtained by standard patch clamp technique . Voltage-clamp currents were measured with a patch clamp amplifier (Axopatch 200B, Axon Instruments, Foster City, CA) with the lowpass, Bessell filtering (−3 dB) set at 5 kHz. Signals from the patch clamp amplifier were fed into a computer via a digital interface (Digidata 1322A) and processed by Clampex 8 software (Axon Instruments). Ag/AgCl half-cells constituted the electrodes, and agar bridges (4% w v-1 in external solution) connected the reference electrodes to the bath solution. Series resistances were compensated following whole-cell access prior to recordings. Giga-ohm seals between pipettes and cell membranes were made with cells perfused with standard external solution. For ICa measurements the cells were perfused with an external solution in which an impermeable cation was substituted for Na+, and Ca2+ concentration was increased (below).
Intracellular Ca2+ measurements
Cells were loaded with Fura-2/AM (TefLabs, Austin, TX) by incubating them for 30 min at room temperature (22–23 °C) with a standard external salt solution containing 2-μM Fura-2/AM. Cells were then washed with the external salt solution and incubated at 37 °C with 5% CO2 for 30 min in the supplemented Claycomb media. The coverslip was transferred to an acrylic chamber (Warner Instr. Co., Hamden, CT) on the microscope stage and washed with the external salt solution for 5 minutes before measurements. Temperature was maintained throughout measurements at 37 °C by a stage/inline temperature controller (Warner Instr. Co., Hamden, CT) Fluorescence was measured with an imaging system consisting of a xenon fiberoptic light source (Perkin-Elmer, Waltham, MA), a filter wheel and a Basler A311F VGA Camera connected to an Olympus IX71inverted fluorescence microscope. The filter wheel and data acquisition were controlled by the InCyte2 software (v. 5.29; Intracellular Imaging, Cincinnati, OH). [Ca2+] was determined by interpolation from a standard curve generated by Ca2+ calibration buffer kit #2 (Molecular Probes @ Life Technologies, Grand Island, NY) and Fura-2/K5-salt. After correction for the individual background fluorescence, the ratio of the fluorescence at both excitation wavelengths (F340/F380) was monitored simultaneously in 30–40 cells, identified by their fluorescence within a single view field. Images were collected every 3.3 s. Each slide was perfused with standard external salt solution for 6 min for control measurements, followed by 10 min with the experimental solution. At 16 min, the slide was washed with standard external salt solution for 5 min, and at 21 min data collection was stopped. Data was then exported to MS Excel and graphed using Origin 7.0 (OriginLab Corp., Northampton, MA) and Sigmaplot 11.0 (Systat Software, Inc., Chicago, IL). For statistical analyses, average [Ca2+]i from 25–40 cells within a microscopic field were obtained during the control period of 1–5 min from each of 5 separate HL-1 cell preparations. These averages were then compiled to obtain average control values (n = 5), and comparisons were made on data collected similarly from the same microscopic fields 15 minutes after experimental additions. Statistical differences between control and experimental values were established at p < 0.05 (Student’s paired T-test).
Solutions and chemicals
Standard external salt solution contained (mM): NaCl 150, KCl 6, MgCl2 1, CaCl2 1.5, N-2-Hydroxyethylpiperazine-N’-2-ethanesulfonic acid (HEPES) 10, glucose 10 (pH adjusted to 7.41 with NaOH). Pipette solution contained (mM): potassium aspartate 120, Na2GTP 0.4, Na2ATP 5, MgCl2 1, EGTA 5, CaCl2 0.1, HEPES 10 (pH adjusted to 7.2 with KOH). For whole-cell voltage clamp measurements of membrane Ca2+ currents external NaCl was substituted with (mM) n-methy-D-gluamine chloride (NMDG+) 150, and CaCl2 was increased to 5 to maximize Ca2+ current. All solution constituents were obtained from Sigma/Aldrich, St. Louis, MO.
LY 294002 was obtained from Alomone Labs, LTD, Jerusalem, Israel. The PI3 kinase isoform inhibitors: PI3-kinase α inhibitor 2, TGX-221 β inhibitor, AS-252424 γ isoform inhibitor; and the AKT inhibitor, Triciribine were obtained from Cayman Chemical, Ann Arbor, MI. The dosages selected for the various inhibitors were based on the literature and the manufacturer’s instructions. All inhibitors were dissolved in DMSO in stock solutions and then diluted to final concentration. The highest final concentration of DMSO by this approach was 0.24% DMSO.
Pharmacologic inhibition of PI3K significantly reduces [Ca2+]i, and Ca2+ transients in HL-1 cardiomyocytes
Effect of phosphoinositide-3-kinase inhibitor LY 294002 on intracellular Ca 2+ concentration recorded 15 minutes after addition of respective inhibitors
Inhibitor (15 min)
P value for difference
141.6 ± 10.1
124.9 ± 6.9
160.6 ± 24.4
134.8 ± 12.0
132.6 ± 5.2
117.1 ± 6.1
Inhibition of PI3K isoforms and akt significantly reduces [Ca2+]i, ICa and Ca2+ transients in HL-1 cardiomyocytes
Effect of phosphoinositide-3-kinase α inhibitor on intracellular Ca 2+ concentration recorded 15 minutes after addition of respective inhibitors
Inhibitor (15 min)
P value for difference
PI3K α inhibitor 2
136.4 ± 8.6
118.3 ± 5.9
PI3K α inhibitor 2
114.9 ± 4.3
102.1 ± 2.5
PI3K α inhibitor 2
131.7 ± 9.0
110.5 ± 4.7
Effect of phosphoinositide-3-kinases β and γ inhibitors on intracellular Ca 2+ concentration recorded 15 minutes after addition of respective inhibitors
Inhibitor (15 min)
P value for difference
105.5 ± 5.0
96.6 ± 4.8
121.8 ± 4.3
111.9 ± 6.0
Effect of Akt-PKB inhibitor on intracellular Ca 2+ concentration recorded 15 minutes after addition of respective inhibitors
Inhibitor (15 min)
P value for difference
177.4 ± 5.2
157.7 ± 1.9
125.7 ± 4.4
104.6 ± 4.8
216.8 ± 4.1
203.9 ± 1.4
Pharmacologic inhibition of PI3K and Akt significantly reduces ICa
These findings show that PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling pathways play a significant role in regulating intracellular Ca2+ in HL-1 cells, which constitute a murine-derived, immortalized cell line with phenotypes like those of adult cardiomyocytes [8, 9]. We found that LY 294002, a specific inhibitor of PI3K, as well as specific inhibitors of each of the PI3K isoforms, i.e. α, β and γ catalytic PI3K subunits, and an inhibitor of Akt/PKB, significantly decreased [Ca2+i and abolished Ca2+ transients or oscillations. Moreover, inhibition of PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling pathways abolished inward Ca2+ current in the HL-1 cells, which likely results from L-type Ca2+ channels in HL-1 cells.
Taken together we conclude that the PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling pathway plays a role in sustaining the voltage-activated Ca2+ current contributing to the HL-1 cell action potential. Catalucci et al.  have shown that Akt-dependent phosphorylation of Cavβ2, the chaperone of the L-type Ca2+ channel pore-forming subunit, Cavα1, antagonizes Cavα1 degradation and, as such, stabilizes the functional channel in the plasma membrane. Inward Ca2+ currents from action potential, via voltage-activated membrane Ca2+ channels, induce Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum [18, 19], which accounts for excitation-contraction coupling in cardiomyocytes .
We observed a two- to five-minute delay for various PIK3/Akt-PKB inhibitors to reduce Ca2+ transients, [Ca2+i and ICa. This is consistent with a time course for the manifestation of inhibition of an enzymatic signaling cascade. We conclude also that this delay is inconsistent with a direct inhibition of membrane Ca2+ channels by the various inhibitors, which most likely would occur faster. The marked reduction of ICa by PI3K/Akt-PKB inhibitors likely results from diminution of L-type ICa. We cannot rule out involvement of T-type ICa since both are expressed in HL-1 cells . However, based upon our holding potential of −50 mV compared with the more electronegative activating voltages for T-type Ca2+ channels  and the relatively extended time course of our ICa, the effects measured here are likely those of L-type ICa. Finally, we conclude that the large outward currents seen in the I/V plots at potentials >30 mV result from K+ currents whose magnitude we have found to vary considerably among HL-1 cells in non-confluent culture (Wondergem, unpublished observations).
These findings also have implications for our understanding of the role of PI3K/Akt-PKB signaling in disease. As noted above, we have reported that sepsis results in decreased activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway in the myocardium . We have also discovered that constitutive up regulation of PI3K p110α in the myocardium prevents sepsis induced cardiac dysfunction and improves survival outcome in septic mice (Li, Williams and colleagues, unpublished observations). Although PI3K/Akt-PKB inhibition in septic mice undoubtedly leads to increased cytokine production in these animals , the present findings also indicate that PI3K/Akt-PKB inhibition directly decreases availability of Ca2+ in the mouse cardiomyocytes. Consistent with this conclusion are the reports that ventricular myocytes obtained from endotoxemic guinea-pigs  and septic pigs  show marked reduction in L-type calcium current; whereas, Akt/PKB overexpression in transgenic mice results in cardiac hypertrophy, increased amplitude of Ca2+ transients and enhanced L-type membrane Ca2+ currents . Lipopolysaccharide treatment of rats also leads to arrhythmogenesis attributable to reduced mRNA levels encoding for L-type Ca2+ subunits . We reported that LPS directly reduces Ca2+ transients in HL-1 cells; however, LPS has no direct effect on L-type Ca2+ currents in these cells, acting instead to reduce the funny current, If,  as also shown by others . Thus, to whatever extent sepsis reduces cardiomyocyte [Ca2+i and Ca2+ transients by inhibition of PI3K/Akt-PKB, elevated cytokines most likely effect these reductions and not LPS directly. On the other hand, the present findings suggest that the amelioration of sepsis and endotoxemia by preconditioning  or ischemia  may result from upregulation of the PK3/Akt-PKB signaling pathways [3, 28–32], which directly increases [Ca2+i available for excitation-contraction coupling in cardiomyocytes.
All PI3K/Akt-PKB inhibitors used in these experiments inhibited Ca2+ transients and significantly decreased [Ca2+i; however, we cannot attribute the importance of one inhibitor over and against that of the others. Similar inhibition Ca2+ transients and [Ca2+i by LY294002 at either 20- or 1-μM rules out toxicity by the drug. Still, there is considerable variability among HL-1 cells regarding the amplitude and rate of Ca2+ transients, as well as [Ca2+i. We attribute this to variation in differentiated phenotype of HL-1 cells 1–2 days after passage. While paired comparisons of the results between control and experimental conditions clearly demonstrate effects of these inhibitors, the variation of Ca2+ transients and [Ca2+i among cells precludes analyses of the comparative effectiveness of the inhibitors. We cannot readily account for Ca2+ variability except to point out that these measurements were made on single HL-1 cells or on small islands of multiple cells as compared with confluent cell monolayers. Usually HL-1 cells require cell confluence following 3–4 days in culture to fully establish the contracting phenotype [8, 13], which also suggests variable expression of ion channels needed for this rhythmicity. As noted, we have observed marked variation in the magnitude of outward K+ currents in HL-1 cells under these conditions. Indeed, we have been able to elicit robust Ca2+ transients in otherwise quiescent cells by perfusing the cells with an inhibitor of the delayed-rectifier K+ channels (E-4031, 10 μM; Graves and Wondergem, unpublished observations); which are prevalent in HL-1 cells [8, 33]. Thus, variation among HL-1 cells in the strength of repolarizing K+ current during action potentials or in cells at rest may account for the different rates and amplitudes of Ca2+ transients as well as [Ca2+i.
In sum, we have found that inhibitors of the PI3K/Akt signaling cascade decrease total [Ca2+]i, intracellular Ca2+ transients and membrane ICa in a murine, immortalized cardiomyocyte cell line, HL-1 cells. These data demonstrate that PI3K/Akt dependent signaling is required for normal Ca2+ metabolism in murine cardiomyocytes. This extends our knowledge of the role of PI3K/Akt signaling in cardiovascular homeostasis. We conclude that maintaining myocardial PI3K/Akt signaling is essential for cardiomyocyte function in the presence and absence of disease.
Protein kinase B
- HL-1 cells:
Proliferating atrial myocytes established from a tumor of AT-1 cells that, in turn, were derived from the atria of a mouse transgenic for the simian virus 40 large T antigen under control of the atrial natriuretic factor promoter
Intracellular calcium ion
Membrane calcium current
Fetal bovine serum
Ethylene glycol-bis(2-aminoethylether)-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid
This work was supported in part by NIH HL071837 to C. Li, NIH GM53552 to D.L. Williams and NIH GM083016 to C. Li and D.L. Williams.
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