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Reduced cardiomyocyte excitation-contraction coupling and downregulation of the SERCA2a (sarcoendoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase 2a) is associated with heart failure. This has led to viral transgene upregulation of SERCA2a in cardiomyocytes as a treatment. We hypothesized that SERCA2a gene therapy expressed under a similar promiscuous cytomegalovirus promoter could also affect the cardiac sympathetic neural axis and promote sympathoexcitation. Stellate neurons were isolated from 90 to 120 g male, Sprague-Dawley, Wistar Kyoto, and spontaneously hypertensive rats. Neurons were infected with Ad-mCherry or Ad-mCherry-hATP2Aa (SERCA2a). Intracellular Ca(2+) changes were measured using fura-2AM in response to KCl, caffeine, thapsigargin, and carbonylcyanide-p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazine to mobilize intracellular Ca(2+) stores. The effect of SERCA2a on neurotransmitter release was measured using [(3)H]-norepinephrine overflow from 340 to 360 g Sprague-Dawley rat atria in response to right stellate ganglia stimulation. Upregulation of SERCA2a resulted in greater neurotransmitter release in response to stellate stimulation compared with control (empty: 98.7±20.5 cpm, n=7; SERCA: 186.5±28.41 cpm, n=8; P<0.05). In isolated Sprague-Dawley rat stellate neurons, SERCA2a overexpression facilitated greater depolarization-induced Ca(2+) transients (empty: 0.64±0.03 au, n=57; SERCA: 0.75±0.03 au, n=68; P<0.05), along with increased endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria Ca(2+) load. Similar results were observed in Wistar Kyoto and age-matched spontaneously hypertensive rats, despite no further increase in endoplasmic reticulum load being observed in the spontaneously hypertensive rat (spontaneously hypertensive rats: empty, 0.16±0.04 au, n=18; SERCA: 0.17±0.02 au, n=25). In conclusion, SERCA2a upregulation in cardiac sympathetic neurons resulted in increased neurotransmission and increased Ca(2+) loading into intracellular stores. Whether the increased Ca(2+) transient and neurotransmission after SERCA2A overexpression contributes to enhanced sympathoexcitation in heart failure patients remains to be determined.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





625 - 632


hypertension, rats, inbred SHR, sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium-transporting ATPases, stellate ganglion, sympathetic nervous system