Dynamics of adrenergic signaling in cardiac myocytes and implications for pharmacological treatment

Emily E. Meyer, Colleen E. Clancy, Timothy J. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Dense innervation of the heart by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) allows cardiac output to respond appropriately to the needs of the body under varying conditions, but occasionally the abrupt onset of SNS activity can trigger cardiac arrhythmias. Sympathetic activity leads to the release of norepinephrine (NE) onto cardiomyocytes, activating β1-adrenergic receptors (β1-ARs) and leading to the production of the second messenger cyclic AMP (cAMP). Upon sudden activation of β1-ARs in experiments, intracellular cAMP can transiently rise to a high concentration before converging to a steady state level. Although changes to cellular cAMP concentration are important in modulating the overall cardiovascular response to sympathetic tone, the underlying mechanisms of the cAMP transients and the parameters that control their magnitude are unclear. We reduce a detailed computational model of the β1-adrenergic signaling cascade to a system of two differential equations by eliminating extraneous variables and applying quasi-steady state approximation. The structure of the reduced model reveals that the large cAMP transients associated with abrupt β1-AR activation are generated by the interplay of production/degradation of cAMP and desensitization/resensitization of β1-ARs. The reduced model is used to predict how the dynamics of intracellular cAMP depend on the concentrations of norepinephrine (NE), phosphodiesterases 3 and 4 (PDE3,4), G-protein coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2), and β1-AR, in healthy conditions and a simple model of early stages of heart failure. The key findings of the study are as follows: 1) Applying a reduced model of the dynamics of cardiac sympathetic signaling we show that the concentrations of two variables, cAMP and non-desensitized β1-AR, capture the overall dynamics of sympathetic signaling; 2) The key factors influencing cAMP production are AC activity and PDE3,4 activity, while those that directly impact β1-AR phosphorylation are GRK2 and PKA1. Thus, disease states that affect sympathetic control of the heart can be thoroughly assessed by studying AC activity, PDE3,4, GRK2 and PKA activity, as these factors directly impact cAMP production/degradation and β1-AR (de) phosphorylation and are therefore predicted to comprise the most effective pharmaceutical targets in diseases affecting cardiac β1-adrenergic signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110619
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Jun 21 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyclic AMP
  • Heart failure
  • Mathematical model
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • β-blockers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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