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Numerous molecular and biochemical processes regulate protein production in the cell. One of these processes, phosphorylation, allows the cell to rapidly adapt to changing physiological situations. In terminally differentiated cells, such as cardiomyocytes, phosphorylation of sarcomeric proteins controls contraction and relaxation under both normal and stressful conditions. The focus of this review is how phosphorylation of sarcomeric proteins alters physiological performance in cardiac muscle with a particular emphasis on the thin filament protein tropomyosin. This topic is addressed by the examination of tropomyosin isoform expression and its phosphorylation state from embryonic to adult murine development. Next, studies are examined which utilize in vivo model systems to express phosphorylation mimetics and de-phosphorylation genetically-altered tropomyosin transgene constructs. Results show that tropomyosin isoform expression is highly regulated, along with its phosphorylation state. Transgenic mouse hearts which express high levels of a constitutively phosphorylated tropomyosin develop a severe dilated cardiomyopathy and die within a month. A more moderate expression of this phosphorylation mimetic leads to normal systolic performance, but impaired diastolic function. When tropomyosin is dephosphorylated, the transgenic mice develop a compensated cardiac hypertrophy without systolic or diastolic alterations. Interestingly, when dephosphorylated tropomyosin is co-expressed with a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy tropomyosin mutation, the pathological phenotype is rescued with improved cardiac function and no indices of systolic or diastolic dysfunction. These studies demonstrate the functional significance of tropomyosin phosphorylation in determining cardiac performance during both normal and pathological conditions.
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