Modulation of Titin-Based Stiffness by Disulfide Bonding in the Cardiac Titin N2-B Unique Sequence
The giant protein titin is responsible for the elasticity of nonactivated muscle sarcomeres. Titin-based passive stiffness in myocardium is modulated by titin-isoform switching and protein-kinase (PK)A- or PKG-dependent titin phosphorylation. Additional modulatory effects on titin stiffness may arise from disulfide bonding under oxidant stress, as many immunoglobulinlike (Ig-)domains in titin’s spring region have a potential for S-S formation. Using single-molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM) force-extension measurements on recombinant Ig-domain polyprotein constructs, we show that titin Ig-modules contain no stabilizing disulfide bridge, contrary to previous belief. However, we demonstrate that the human N2-B-unique sequence (N2-Bus), a cardiac-specific, physiologically extensible titin segment comprising 572 amino-acid residues, contains up to three disulfide bridges under oxidizing conditions. AFM force spectroscopy on recombinant N2-Bus molecules demonstrated a much shorter contour length in the absence of a reducing agent than in its presence, consistent with intramolecular S-S bonding. In stretch experiments on isolated human heart myofibrils, the reducing agent thioredoxin lowered titin-based stiffness to a degree that could be explained (using entropic elasticity theory) by altered extensibility solely of the N2-Bus. We conclude that increased oxidant stress can elevate titin-based stiffness of cardiomyocytes, which may contribute to the global myocardial stiffening frequently seen in the aging or failing heart.