Cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure caused by high blood pressure were studied in single myocytes from hypertensive rats (Dahl SS/Jr) and SH-HF rats in heart failure. Confocal microscopy and patch-clamp methods were used to examine excitation-contraction (EC) coupling, and the relation between the plasma membrane calcium current I(Ca) and evoked calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), which was visualized as 'calcium sparks.' The ability of I(Ca) to trigger calcium release from the SR in both hypertrophied and failing hearts was reduced. Because i(Ca) density and SR calcium-release channels were normal, the defect appears to reside in a channels in the relation between SR calcium-release channels and sarcolemmal calcium channels. β-Adrenergic stimulation largely overcome the defect in hypertrophic but not failing heart cells. Thus, the same defect in EC coupling that develops during hypertrophy may contribute to heart failure when compensatory mechanisms fail.
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